Google Disables YouTube Linked to Iranian Political Debacle
August 20, 2018
Google has taken a stand against political influencing, specifically those influencers who live outside the United States. Recently, a Russian led campaign caught the eye of Facebook and caused the site to revoke accounts from users suspected of coercing a group of protesters in the U.S. Now, it appears that Google is fighting back against an Iranian based group which has been using the YouTube platform as a means of broadcasting political information which might sway voters in the next U.S. election.
The search engine giant took steps by disabling various accounts across the YouTube platform when suspicions arose in recent weeks. The messages being sent by these groups seem to originate from somewhere inside of the country of Iran and is hoping to instill interests related to the country into residents of the United States and others in North America.
Google was first alerted to the issue by a third-party security firm called FireEye, which works privately for many large tech companies around the world. The search engine giant then went on to further investigate the issue and found that it was, in fact, the URUB or Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting team making these accounts and transmitting the unethical information.
The issue of political influencing has become something of a problem for the United States government over the past decade as the internet has boomed and made it possible for anybody anywhere to voice an opinion and share it with others. It’s not opinions which are the problem, however, but the ability to coerce, advertise, and persuade American voters from other countries. At first, it looked like the most likely perpetrator in these missions was Russia, but now Iran may be a problem as well.
In the past, the internet community has also seen similar problems from inside America itself. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, which landed Facebook in hot water last year, proved that no information is safe enough on the internet. Millions lost personal data, including address, name, phone number, and contacts to a company which allegedly used it to create propaganda for the Trump campaign.
Facebook and Iran Groups
Last week, Facebook also began deleting groups related to Iranian instigators, removing 652 different pages associated with both Iran and Russian scammers. FireEye alerted Facebook to a similar issue, making it apparent that no social media platform or website is safe from this type of intrusion. Twitter also took a hit and has been making their best efforts to moderate the issue and remove accounts associated with such behavior.
Ever since the information about the Trump campaign being infiltrated by Russian influencers, social media outlets have been far more careful about who and where information is being shared. While these platforms are used globally and open to both Russian and Iranian citizens for use, the companies draw the line at forcing political agendas.
Help Is On The Way
It isn’t just companies like FireEye doing their part to alert social media and web giants like Google to these issues. Some companies have been offering further assistance in the form of hacking protection. Unfortunately, this could be misconstrued as some type of political agenda following of its own. It appears that websites will have to be more careful than ever before to avoid being lumped in with these troublemakers.
Even American-based companies are trying to steer clear of possible political backlash and legal issues by requesting information from the FEC or Federal Election Commission about what is and isn’t allowed in terms of election related security software and privacy blockers. One such company, which has asked for information and guidance on the issue is Microsoft, which created a security package for just such an issue but are unsure about whether it would be appropriate given the recent problems. This software is called Account Guard and has been provided to federal parties and groups working under state and national candidates to help block unwanted parties from infiltrating pertinent data.
Sometimes Good Things Come from Bad Circumstances
On the upside, the negative backlash which has affected companies like Facebook regarding personal data leaks for political gain has caused something of an information wave across the country. Large companies are being far more careful about who they share information with, where information is coming from, and even who they work with. Social media sites have been cleaning house with no end in sight, and even the voting population seems to be more on their toes than ever before in terms of better understanding scams and misinformation related to the elections.
November 6, 2018 will make the midterm election a hot topic for many of these overseas groups trying to get their opinions across. What could be to gain for Russian and Iranian groups trying to infiltrate the democratic voting system? That’s not something that is known yet; although, suspicions stand that these counties may have something to gain in trade agreements and other international perks should their preferred parties be voted in.
For more information on the latest changes made by Google to YouTube, you can read their official news page online. Follow along with social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat for similar stories. Above all, stay informed and aware that there are threats like this lurking across the internet. Keep personal information private and only divulge what needs to be answered in order to complete work and personal assignments.