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Google Removes YouTube Channels and Web Accounts Tied to Iran

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 8/23/2018 Mark Bergen
Two Iranian women walk past a wall mural of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Iranian Republic, on the wall of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran.: Google Removes YouTube Channels and Web Accounts Tied to Iran © Bloomberg Google Removes YouTube Channels and Web Accounts Tied to Iran

(Bloomberg) -- Google has deleted 39 YouTube channels and 19 other web pages connected to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, a state-run media outlet, citing "attempted state-sponsored hacking and influence campaigns." The move comes after Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. pulled hundreds of social accounts tied to Iran for similar reasons.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google concluded that the manipulation efforts began as early as January 2017, Kent Walker, head of global affairs, wrote in a blog post on Thursday. Google worked with cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc. to identify the accounts from Iran. "We can’t go into all the technical details without giving away information that would be helpful to others seeking to abuse our platforms," Walker wrote in the post.

Google has faced less political fire than Facebook and Twitter for letting state-sponsored election meddling spread on its services. But U.S. officials have identified ways that Russian-backed actors used YouTube as a vehicle for political influence. Walker is slated to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about foreign election interference on Sept. 5.

In the blog post, Walker also said Google removed 42 YouTube channels related to the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which sowed discord on social media before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Midterm elections are coming up in November and tech companies are under pressure to prevent their services from being manipulated again.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Bergen in San Francisco at mbergen10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Andrew Pollack

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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