Russia tells Google not to advertise ‘illegal’ events

Police detain a man during a protest in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 13 August 2019

Russia tells Google not to advertise ‘illegal’ events

  • Russia has adopted a series of measures to increase control over the Internet in recent years

MOSCOW: Russian MPs will hold a special session next week to discuss alleged “meddling” by foreign powers after huge protests in Moscow, following a government warning to YouTube.
Russia’s state communications watchdog has also asked Google to stop advertising “illegal mass events” on its YouTube video platform.
The speaker of the lower house State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said “facts of meddling in domestic issues in our country” would be debated on Aug. 19.
Russia has accused foreign governments and media of backing the demonstrations, which have seen tens of thousands rally in recent weeks demanding free local elections.
On Sunday, the government’s internet watchdog Roskomnadzor accused Google of “advertising unsanctioned mass actions” on YouTube. The watchdog pointed to “various structures with YouTube channels” disseminating information about unsanctioned protests.
It said the channels use “advertising instruments” such as “push notifications” to “disrupt elections” and warned Google that Moscow will view inaction on its part as “meddling in Russia’s sovereign elections.”
The rallies, some unsanctioned, have rocked Moscow for the past month, with the largest on Saturday drawing up to 60,000 people. Protesters are outraged over the exclusion of opposition candidates from Moscow city hall elections next month.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Russia’s state communications watchdog said digital channels use ‘advertising instruments’ such as ‘push notifications’ to ‘disrupt elections.’

• It warned Google that Moscow will view inaction on its part as ‘meddling in Russia’s sovereign elections.’

• Opposition rallies, some unsanctioned, have rocked Moscow for the past month, with the largest on Saturday drawing up to 60,000 people.

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested including chief Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose team runs a YouTube channel and operated a live feed from the protests.
Roskomnadzor has a fraught relationship with global internet platforms and social networks, but its attempts to control them have not been very successful. Although the Telegram messaging service is formally banned, it is still available in the country. Navalny’s ally Lyubov Sobol, whose petition to run in the election was rejected, called Roskomnadzor’s demands “comical.”
YouTube notifications are alerts sent to users subscribed to a particular channel about new videos.
Russian senator Andrei Klimov on Monday said senators will be also calling in envoys of countries which “attempted to meddle in Russia’s domestic affairs,” news agency Tass reported.
Last week Moscow summoned a representative of the US Embassy, saying a “demonstration alert” it sent with details of the protest amounted to “an attempt to intervene” in Russian affairs.
Moscow also criticized German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle for what it said were calls to take part in the rally.


Twitter shuts more than 200,000 Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

Updated 20 August 2019

Twitter shuts more than 200,000 Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

  • Twitter traced the Hong Kong campaign to two fake Chinese and English Twitter accounts that pretended to be news organizations based in Hong Kong
  • An additional 936 core accounts Twitter believes originated from within China attempted to sow political discord in Hong Kong

 

 

WASHINGTON: Twitter said Monday it has suspended more than 200,000 accounts that it believes were part of a Chinese government influence campaign targeting the protest movement in Hong Kong.
The company also said it will ban ads from state-backed media companies, expanding a prohibition it first applied in 2017 to two Russian entities.
Both measures are part of what a senior company official portrayed in an interview as a broader effort to curb malicious political activity on a popular platform that has been criticized for enabling election interference around the world and for accepting money for ads that amount to propaganda by state-run media organizations.
The accounts were suspended for violating the social networking platform’s terms of service and “because we think this is not how people can come to Twitter to get informed,” the official said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the Chinese activity was reported to the FBI, which investigated Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election through social media.
After being notified by Twitter and conducting its own investigation, Facebook said Monday that it has also removed seven pages, three groups and five accounts, including some portraying protesters as cockroaches and terrorists.
Facebook, which is more widely used in Hong Kong, does not release the data on such state-backed influence operations.
Twitter traced the Hong Kong campaign to two fake Chinese and English Twitter accounts that pretended to be news organizations based in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets since early June calling for full democracy and an inquiry into what they say is police violence against protesters.
Though Twitter is banned in China, it is available in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region.
The Chinese language account, @HKpoliticalnew, and the English account, @ctcc507, pushed tweets depicting protesters as violent criminals in a campaign aimed at influencing public opinion around the world. One of those accounts was tied to a suspended Facebook account that went by the same moniker: HKpoliticalnew.
An additional 936 core accounts Twitter believes originated from within China attempted to sow political discord in Hong Kong by undermining the protest movement’s legitimacy and political positions.
About 200,000 more automated Twitter accounts amplified the messages, engaging with the core accounts in the network. Few tweeted more than once, the official said, mostly because Twitter quickly caught many of them.
The Twitter official said the investigation remains ongoing and there could be further disclosures.
The Twitter campaign reflects the fact that the Chinese government has studied the role of social media in mass movements and fears the Hong Kong protests could spark wider unrest, said James Lewis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This is standard Chinese practice domestically, and we know that after 2016 they studied what the Russians did in the US carefully,” Lewis said. “So it sounds like this is the first time they’re deploying their new toy.”
Twitter has sought to more aggressively monitor its network for malicious political activity since the 2016 presidential election and to be more transparent about its investigations, publicly releasing such data about state-backed influence operations since October so others can evaluate it, the official said.
“We’re not only telling the public this happened, we’re also putting the data out there so people can study it for themselves,” the official said.
As for state-backed media organizations, they are still allowed to use Twitter, but are no longer allowed to pay for ads, which show up regardless of whether you have elected to follow the group’s tweet.
Twitter declined to provide a list of what it considers state-backed media organizations, but a representative said it may consider doing so in the future. In 2017, Twitter specifically announced it would ban Russia-based RT and Sputnik from advertising on its platform.