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YouTube Appears to be Auto-Deleting Comments Critical of Chinese Communists

A phrase meaning "communist bandit" and another referring to online censors have disappeared from the platform

There are occasional indications that Google’s relationship with China is sinister rather than merely naive or unprincipled. While the search giant may have abandoned Dragonfly, a censored search engine for the Chinese market, it appears they are bringing PRC-style censorship to its Western products like YouTube.

Wesley Yang tried it and the comment was instantly deleted:

A spokesman provided TAC with the statement that, “This appears to be an error in our enforcement systems and we are investigating,” though the Verge notes these deletions have been criticized for at least six months. The speed at which the comments are being deleted suggests that it is definitely automatic, but whether these words have been added to a blacklist, similar to their domain-level blacklists for their special search products, is still unclear.

However this happened, it is surely unwelcome news for the company, and will not help them head off the antitrust probe by state attorneys general and the lawsuit reportedly being drafted by the Justice Department. While the question of how accommodating they are to the preferences of the Chinese government does not directly bear on the antitrust question, an investigation could yield information that might confirm the worst fears of Google critics.

There has been speculation for a year or so about the extent to which Google may be infiltrated by China. Alex Stamos, head of security at Facebook, thinks it’s very possible. Three editions of Google’s internal microaggressions newsletter, excerpts of which I reported on for the Daily Caller last year, contained a few incidents that point to substantial pro-PRC sentiment within the company. A Taiwanese flag in one Lego display was vandalized. Protests against Dragonfly were reported as racist—a striking example of social justice rhetoric providing cover for authoritarian regimes, a phenomenon the Australians know well. And this complaint:

“There’s been a recent thread on a Google group about Google entering the China ecosystem. Many Google employees have debated their values and opinions on whether or not we should enter the market. However, there are many others that see China as an oppressed country that do not provide basic human rights to their citizens and are not open to truly hearing the other half of the discourse. When faced with earnest comments from other (predominantly Chinese) coworkers, one particular person had claimed that since they had Chinese friends and in-laws, they understood how morally incorrect it was to engage with the Chinese government in business deals. If someone had prefaced their opinions with ‘I have [race] friends, therefore…’, the community would have been infuriated. Moreover, this person disclosed that they are on the hiring community and are now going to question why people want to join Google now that this information is publicly reported. Claiming to be heavily biased towards an implied race of people makes me deeply uncomfortable about our hiring committee and the fact that this person felt confident enough to announce this in our (internal, but basically) public forum.”

You see what’s going on here, don’t you? According to Google’s own transparency reports, the Chinese government had never made a takedown request on the grounds of hate speech before 2018. In the first half of 2019, hate speech-related takedown requests constituted 29 percent of the 133 made. I suppose it’s possible that the CCP has increased its level of concern for nasty things foreigners are saying about them on platforms one can’t even access in mainland China. But it’s more likely that they’ve figured out an easy way to manipulate useful idiots in the West.

Update: This also seems relevant.