YouTube is being pressured to remove ads from China Central Television, a state media channel that’s allegedly spreading misinformation about protesters in Hong Kong.
Users on Twitter and Reddit have posted a number of screenshots of the ads, many of which paint the Hong Kong protests as an illegitimate product of foreign influence. The users accuse YouTube and parent company Google of enabling an “infestation of ads” that “tries to sow political discord.” As a result, many supporters of the protests are demanding that Google stop CCTV from running ads on YouTube.
“Google, why are you helping China [government] to undermine freedom of [Hong Kong citizens] with your platform,” Chu Ka-cheong, an engineer based in Hong Kong, tweeted.
YouTube hasn’t addressed the advertisements on its own platform yet. Google’s ad policies don’t directly address state media branches like CCTV, although Google has rules for political advertisements and prohibits content that misrepresents the product or organization an advertisement is talking about. Still, it’s unclear whether CCTV’s ads violate Google’s policies. A representative for YouTube did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment by the time of publish. CCTV’s main YouTube channel has just over 560,000 subscribers.
The protests in Hong Kong have been building since February, but they’ve grown particularly intense in recent weeks. Protestors’ core concern is a proposed bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to China for trial, effectively putting residents under more restrictive justice system of mainland China. Protesters have referred to the bill as a form of “legalized kidnapping,” according to NPR, which also reported that people are scared that Chinese authorities “would pursue extradition of political dissidents under the guise of trumped-up charges.”
China has also been accused of spreading disinformation in response to the protests. Twitter announced in a blog post on August 19th that it will no longer accept advertising from state media operations, like China Central Television. Although Facebook did not announce any policy changes following the discovery of several accounts and pages spreading misinformation about the protesters, the company is “committed to continually improving to stay ahead,” according to Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy.
Several state media organizations maintain a presence on YouTube, including RT, Xinhua, and CCTV, although they often face different rules from conventional broadcasters. YouTube started to implement notices below videos that are published broadcasters who receive public or government funding in February 2018. As YouTube becomes a major platform for news (a recent Survey Monkey and Common Sense study discovered that 50 percent of teens get their news from YouTube), the company wants “to be sure to get it right,” according to a blog post from 2018.