YouTube deletes comments critical of China’s Communist party

Carsten Rehder / photo alliance via Getty Images

YouTube has admitted to automatically removing comments criticizing the ruling Communist Party (CCP) in China.

The video platform – owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet – said the automatic deletion of some comments was due to “an error” with its automated application systems. The problem was first confirmed at The Verge.

“We are still working to resolve the issues on YouTube,” said a YouTube spokesperson. “After examination by our teams, we have confirmed that it was an error in our application systems and we are working to correct it as soon as possible.”

Users Student the problem on the official YouTube help pages in October 2019, suggesting that it has been going on for at least six months.

Comments are deleted below videos and live streams and two Chinese phrases are targeted in particular, even if used in a positive way.

If the comments contain the words “共匪” (“Communist bandit”) or “五毛” (“50 cents party”), they are picked up by YouTube comment filters and deleted in about 15 seconds, reports The Verge. The first sentence is a derogatory term for Chinese Communists, while the second is a term given to Internet users who are paid to manipulate public opinion on the Community Party.

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, drew attention to the issue when he tweeted about it on Tuesday, saying it was a form of censorship.

Luckey’s comment was noticed by Senator Ted Cruz.

“Why does Google / YouTube censor Americans on behalf of the CCP? It is FALSE,” Cruz tweeted. “Big Tech is drunk on power. Sherman law prohibits the abuse of monopoly power. The DOJ (Department of Justice) must stop this NOW.”

Google used to censor the content of the CCP. The Dragonfly project, for example, involved building a censored search engine that complies with state censorship. The project was reported have been terminated due to a conflict with Google’s privacy unit.

This YouTube problem, however, seems accidental.

To further complicate matters, YouTube is technically blocked in China, but some citizens are using VPNs (virtual private networks) to work around the problem.

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