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North Korea Advertises Military Hardware on Twitter, YouTube, Defying Sanctions

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Glocom, a front company for the government of North Korea that sells sanctioned equipment, isn’t giving up. In 2017, before YouTube quietly removed Glocom’s channel, the company was advertising missile navigation and other military products on the video platform.

But Glocom has returned. It setup a new channel, and also had a presence on Twitter, until Motherboard flagged Glocom’s accounts to social media companies.

The news not only signals the perseverance of parts of the North Korean’s money-making enterprises, but also a slice of the content moderation issues that tech platforms constantly face.

Glocom “is using them as platforms to market sanctions violating products,” Shea Cotton, research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and who has a particular focus on North Korea, told Motherboard in an email.

Glocom has previously pitched itself as a Malaysian company, but is in fact run by a North Korean intelligence agents, according to a United Nations report previously covered by Reuters. The products currently advertised on its website include radar systems, communications software, and military radio gear.

A screenshot from one of Glocom’s YouTube videos. Image: Glocom.

“Glocom makes sincere efforts at product services with education, transfer of technology, joint venture and collaboration for countries and organizations around the world that safeguard territorial integrity and struggle against aggression and war under the principle of independence, equality and mutual benefit meeting the customers’ requirements,” the company’s website reads.

Cotton said “this company continues to operate openly. Most DPRK [Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea] fronts, when exposed, usually fold or at the very least shut down and move their operations to another country and re-open under a new name. This one hasn’t done that. We’ve seen them try to create this spin off brand called ‘FACOM’ and sell a few of their products under it but as you’ve seen their main brand is still thriving apparently.”

Indeed, Glocom doesn’t limit itself to a website, and despite being banned from YouTube once before, Glocom has its digital wares spread across various platforms. On Twitter, Glocom has shared videos giving overviews of its products, which are in turn hosted on YouTube.

“Now starting to mass production GR-8100HV HF/VHF manpack radio which is smallest […] lightest and powerful in worldwide,” one tweet sent this month reads.

The company also has an Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn account, although these appear to be much less active.

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When Motherboard contacted YouTube for comment, the video platform removed Glocom’s channel.

“This account has been terminated for a violation of YouTube’s Terms of Service,” the channel now reads.

A YouTube spokesperson told Motherboard in an email that “YouTube complies with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws—including with respect to content created and uploaded by restricted entities. If we find that an account violates our Terms of Service or Community Guidelines, we disable it.”

Twitter also suspended Glocom’s account when Motherboard contacted the social network for comment. Twitter declined to provide a statement.

At the time of writing, Facebook is investigating Glocom’s presence on its site, but did not provide a statement in time for publication.

As for why Glocom is determined to remain on these platforms, when other surreptitious companies may fade away, Cotton said, “To me it suggests that despite the negative publicity they must have established some sort of customer base that respects their brand. I’d be very curious who exactly that is.”

Glocom did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

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