Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was sifting through YouTube on Tuesday when he came across a very strange phenomenon. The video site was automatically deleting Chinese-language comments criticizing the country’s ruling Communist Party, otherwise known as the CCP.
The Verge explains:
Comments left under videos or in live streams that contain the words “共匪” (“communist bandit”) or “五毛” (“50-cent party”) are automatically deleted in around 15 seconds, though their English language translations and Romanized Pinyin equivalents are not.
The term “共匪” is an insult that dates back to China’s Nationalist government, while “五毛,” (or “wu mao”) is a derogatory slang term for internet users paid to direct online discussion away from criticism of the CCP. The name comes from claims that such commenters are paid 50 Chinese cents per post.
YouTube has a system in place that automatically deletes spam and offensive comments using a database of the most common words and phrases. It appears that the above two phrases were added to the filter, resulting in their automatic removal from the site whenever posted under a video.
In response to the controversy, a YouTube spokesperson said that the censorship was the result of an error.
“Upon review by our teams,” the site said, “we have confirmed this was an error in our enforcement systems and we are working to fix it as quickly as possible.”
That may sound good…until you begin to wonder what kind of “error” could result in such a specific problem. Oh, and as The Verge helpfully points out, this supposed error has “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,” the site reported.
These tech giants and their unacceptable censorship – whether it’s Twitter fact-checking the president, Google quarantining conservative sites in their search results, or YouTube sticking up for the Chinese Communist Party – is beyond the pale. We’re all for the rights of private corporations, but – at the very least – the public needs to become very aware of what they’re getting when they go onto these websites. And if these sites are going to act more like publishers and less like open platforms, then they need to take on the responsibilities therein.