Google-owned YouTube is blaming its own algorithms for automatically deleting comments on videos that are critical of China.
Google-owned YouTube is blaming its own algorithms for automatically deleting comments on videos that are critical of China, a country where the site is banned from operating.
Users have reported their comments being quickly deleted after commenting the targeted phrases: at this stage it appears insults like “Communist bandit” and “50-cent party” are among the banned phrases.
According to The Verge, the phrases are quickly deleted if posted in Mandarin Chinese, though their English and Pinyin translations are not.
“This appears to be an error in our enforcement systems and we are investigating,” a YouTube spokesperson told the site.
The phrase “communist bandit” is a longstanding insult against the CCP, basically the equivalent of calling someone a commie or pinko.
The “50-cent party” comment is a colloquial name for online commenters believed to be hired by the Chinese government to talk it up online, the name a reference to the payment they’re alleged to receive.
Posts on YouTube’s “Community” forum where people go for help when they can’t get it from the company indicate the deletions could have been going on for more than six months.
Some in the community forums indicated the same thing had happened to them, while others theorised the comments could have been deleted by the channel owner or deleted by an algorithm because it’s an insult or unhelpful content.
Others poked holes in that theory by pointing out YouTube regularly allows ethnic slurs and other insults in comments.
It appears the two terms have been added to YouTube’s automatic filters for comment moderation, which the company is relying on even more during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to a changes in the workforce.
Palmer Luckey, technologist and founder of virtual reality company Oculus (since sold to Facebook) raised concerns about the practice on his Twitter account earlier this week.
YouTube has deleted every comment I ever made about the Wumao (五毛), an internet propaganda division of the Chinese Communist Party. Who at Google decided to censor American comments on American videos hosted in America by an American platform that is already banned in China?
YouTuber Jennifer Zeng also raised the issue a couple of weeks ago.
#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。
China criticism and the censorship of it is a thorny issue for tech companies, either seeking to preserve its access to the massive upwardly mobile market of almost 1.4 billion Chinese, or gain entrance to it in the first place.
Google has had several bites at the apple but currently its services are banned in China.
The company left China in 2010 after it became uncomfortable with pushes by the government to censor certain search results.
But it didn’t take long before members of the Maps and Android teams, as well as executives, were trying to push back into China.
He added that throughout his tenure he and his team “continued to engage with product executives who were increasingly frustrated by the phenomenal growth in the Chinese market and pushed hard for our re-entry into China”, frustration he partially blamed for him being pushed out of the company.
Apple has made billions off the Chinese market, where its iPhones compete with smartphones running stripped back versions of Google’s Android operating system without any of the company’s web services.
The company has also sought to build close relationships and avoid angering China.