YouTube investigates automatic deletion of comments criticising China Communist party | YouTube

YouTube is investigating the apparently automatic removal of comments critical of the Chinese Communist party amid complaints of censorship.

The company said the filtering appeared to be “an error” amid a greater reliance on automated systems during the coronavirus pandemic because its human reviewers have been sent home.

The inquiry was sparked by media reports on complaints from technology entrepreneur Palmer Luckey. Other Twitter users responded to Luckey’s tweet that they, too, believed comments about the Communist party had been removed.

Luckey, a founder of the virtual reality group Oculus who is now works for a defence tech firm, tweeted: “YouTube has deleted every comment I ever made about the Wumao, an internet propaganda division of the Chinese Communist party,” and suggested the filtering appeared to be a new policy of censorship.

The comments attracted the attention of Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who called the matter “very disturbing”.

“Why is Google/YouTube censoring Americans on behalf of the CCP? This is WRONG,” Cruz tweeted. “Big Tech is drunk with power. The Sherman Act prohibits abusing monopoly power. DOJ (Department of Justice) needs to stop this NOW.”

Cruz appeared to be referring to unsubstantiated comments from the White House that large tech firms are biased against conservatives and should be hit for antitrust violations.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, said in a statement it had made no policy changes and that its filters were designed to remove only “spammy, hateful or harassing comments” from the platform.

“This appears to be an error in our enforcement systems and we are investigating,” a YouTube spokesperson said of the complaints. “Users can report suspected issues to troubleshoot errors and help us make product improvements.”

YouTube said in March it expected to see more content removal as a result of its reliance on machine learning instead of human moderators.

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