US media is reporting that YouTube’s search results for the Beijing Winter Olympics are dominated by both pro-China and anti-China propaganda videos and disinformation. According to a Wired investigation:
February 11, 2022 Sports fans who tuned in to watch the Beijing Winter Olympics on YouTube are instead being served propaday ganda videos. An analysis of YouTube search results by WIRED found that people who typed “Beijing,” “Beijing 2022,” “Olympics,” or “Olympics 2022” were shown pro-China and anti-China propaganda videos in the top results. Five of the most prominent propaganda videos, which often appear above actual Olympics highlights, have amassed almost 900,000 views. Two anti-China videos showing up in search results were published by a group called The BL (The Beauty of Life), which Facebook previously linked to the Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual movement that was banned by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999 and has protested against the regime ever since. They jostled for views with pro-China videos posted by Western YouTubers whose work has previously been promoted by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Similar search results were visible in the US, Canada, and the UK. WIRED also found signs that viewing numbers for pro-China videos are being artificially boosted through the use of fake news websites.
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The report notes that the dominance of propaganda videos suggests that YouTube is at risk of letting such campaigns hijack the Olympics. The Global Influence Operations Report reported yesterday that pro-China accounts have also hijacked the hashtag #GenocideGames on Twitter in an effort to dilute the hashtag’s power to galvanize criticism of China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang.