YouTube is Censoring Comments in Order to Protect the Chinese Communist Party’s Image
According to a report from The Verge, YouTube is deleting comments that feature specific Chinese-language phrases connected to criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The company claims that these deletions were errors and is attempting to rectify the issue.
“Upon review by our teams, we have confirmed this was an error in our enforcement systems and we are working to fix it as quickly as possible,” stated a YouTube spokesperson. The company did not go into details on how or why this error developed, but defended itself by asserting that the change was not the result of any change in its moderation policy.
However, James Vincent of The Verge highlighted some uncomfortable facts:
But if the deletions are the result of a simple mistake, then it’s one that’s gone unnoticed for six months. The Verge found evidence that comments were being deleted as early as October 2019, when the issue was raised on YouTube’s official help pages and multiple users confirmed that they had experienced the same problem.
Comments left during videos or live streams that feature the words “共匪” (“communist bandit”) or “五毛” (“50-cent party”) are instantly deleted around 15 seconds. However, the English language translations and Romanized Pinyin equivalents are not deleted.
The term “共匪” refers to an insult that goes back to China’s Nationalist government, whereas “五毛,” (or “wu mao”) is a vulgar slang term for internet users paid to divert criticism of the CCP in online discussions. The name comes from allegations that such commenters are receiving 50 Chinese cents per post.
These phrases appear to have been added by accident to YouTube’s comment filters, which automatically delete spam and offensive texts. Vincent noted that “The comments are removed too quickly for human moderation and are deleted even if the banned phrases are used positively (e.g., “The 五毛 are doing a fantastic job”). YouTube says it’s been relying more on its automated filters in recent months due changes to its workforce brought about by the pandemic.”
This incident of accidental censorship gets more confusing when taking into account that YouTube, as Vincent calls attention to, “is currently blocked in China, giving its parent company, Google, even less reason to censor comments critical of the CCP or apply moderation systems in accordance with Chinese censorship laws.”
US technologist and former Oculus founder Palmer Luckey brought attention to these automatic deletions in a Twitter post on May 26, 2020. However, human rights activist Jennifer Zeng spotted similar cases in the middle of the May. According to Vincent, “The Verge also found complaints on YouTube’s official help pages dated to October 2019.”
#YouTube "automatically" deletes a comment in Chinese, "Gongfei", which means "communist bandit", in 15 seconds.
This person tested 3 times, same result. #油管 15秒內自動刪除「共匪」留言，網友連試三次皆如此。
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferatntd) May 13, 2020
Google has received frequent criticism for kowtowing to the CCP’s call for censorship. The tech titan attempted to set up a prototype search engine known as Project Dragonfly which complied with Chinese Communist Party censorship. That said, the project was never implemented and is part of the company’s relentless efforts to tap into the Chinese market.
When news of Dragonfly surfaced in 2018 in a report on The Intercept, Google politicians and its own employees took it to task for compromising its principles. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing back in June 2019, the company stated it had “terminated” the project and that it had “no plans to launch Search in China.”
Given Big Tech’s globalist propensities and its desire to earn a quick buck, consequences be damned, its coddling of China illustrates its anti-nationalist outlook.
Lawmakers and journalists should continue placing the company under further scrutiny for its behavior.