US tech company Google has taken down more than a dozen accounts on its subsidiary online video-sharing platform YouTube, claiming they had been part of “coordinated influence operations” from Iran.
In a report for the second quarter of 2020 that was released earlier this week, Google announced that it terminated 16 YouTube accounts in April that were allegedly linked to International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) internet group.
The accounts in question purportedly took part in “coordinated influence operations,” operating in several languages, including English, Arabic, Persian, French, Spanish and Russian.
The Google report further said IUVM posted content in Arabic related to the US government’s response to COVID-19 and content about Saudi-American relations.
The United States has a history of calling on social media companies Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to block Iranian accounts in particular as part of its so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.
In April, Facebook closed accounts it said were tied to Iran and seeking to influence the public in multiple countries.
Facebook later said in early June that it had started to label Iran’s English-language Press TV television news network as well as Russia’s Sputnik and China’s Xinhua news agencies as “state-media”, adding it would later block them from running advertisements in the United States.
The social media company said then it would initially apply the label to about 200 pages belonging to these outlets.
The labels, Facebook said, would immediately start appearing on pages globally, as well as on news-feed posts within the United States.
The decision to label the media outlets came after they published in-depth articles and videos about a series of protests across the United States following the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer.
It also came ahead of the November presidential election in the US, and as President Donald Trump is in a tight spot amid the coronavirus crisis.
Social media activists maintain that Facebook has labeled the Iranian, Chinese and Russian media outlets under pressure from the US government, which has resorted to sanctions a weapon of choice.
While banning the Iranian, Chinese and Russian networks for being “state-media”, the company has said it will not label any US government-run outlets, including Arabic-language Alhurra television news network, because they allegedly had editorial independence.
In 2018, Facebook targeted hundreds of accounts allegedly tied to Iran and Russia under the pretext of fighting what it calls “misinformation” campaigns. Among the accounts was one belonging to the Quest for Truth (Q4T) Iranian media organization, which promotes Islamic values.
Facebook is also known for blocking pages critical of the Israeli regime.
Twitter and YouTube have also conducted specific bans targeting accounts allegedly linked to countries that are critical of the policies of Western governments, such as accounts in Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.