Google removes 58 accounts that are linked to Iran from YouTube and other sites



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Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Claudia Cruz / CNET

Google has removed 58 accounts with ties to Iran from its platforms, the search giant said Thursday. Google said the accounts were part of an & # 39; impact operation & # 39; which was aimed at spreading misinformation and sowing discord among the public.

The deleted accounts include 39 channels on YouTube, owned by Google, six blogs on its Blogger site, and 13 accounts from its Google+ social network. The YouTube channels had a total of 13,466 views in the United States for relevant videos. Google said the accounts were linked to the IRIB, or the Broadcasting of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

"Actors engaged in this kind of influence are in violation of our policies and we quickly remove such content from our services and terminate the accounts of those actors," wrote Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president of global affairs, in a blog post. "In addition, we use a number of robust methods, including IP blocking, to prevent people or entities in Iran from opening advertising accounts."

Google said the operation seems to have continued since at least January 2017. The search giant said it contacted both lawmakers and law enforcement about his findings.

The announcement is only the latest in a series of revelations of technical giants trying to prevent abuse of foreign actors. Silicon Valley was intensively investigated in the run-up to the American mid-term elections in 2018. The technology platforms are still recovering from their role in the 2016 presidential elections in which Russian trolls tried to interfere with the result and sow discord among voters.

The unveiling of Google comes two days after Facebook said it will remove 652 non-authentic pages, groups and accounts with links to Russia and Iran. Twitter followed later that day with an apparently related revelation. It said that it stopped 284 accounts with ties to Iran for coordinated manipulation & # 39 ;.

On Monday, Microsoft said it has discovered and disabled various fake websites designed to deceive visitors and allow a group connected to the Russian government to hack their computers.

Google said it collaborated with the cyber security company FireEye – the same company that marked the disinformation campaigns on Facebook – to identify the fake accounts.

The search giant also had an update on its efforts to combat disinformation operations from Russia on Thursday. The company removed 42 YouTube channels with links to the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-backed troll farm that was involved in the campaign to disrupt the 2016 elections. In the 42 channels there were 58 English-language political videos, with a total of fewer than 1800 views in the US.

Google also said it detects phishing attacks – which try to steal passwords and other people's log-in data – from state-sponsored actors who focus on political campaigns, journalists, activists and academics. The phishing attempts came in "recent months" for people "around the world", the company said, although it did not become more specific. Google said it has sent warning emails on Monday to Gmail users that may have been targeted.

Google will receive more information about his disclosures on Capitol Hill next month. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are expected to appear on September 5 for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to testify about electoral security. Walker offered to participate on behalf of Google, but has been rejected by the committee. Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

First published on 23 August at 11:35 pm PT.
Update, 2.00 pm PT: Adds that the Senate Committee rejected Walker's offer to appear at the September 5 hearing.

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