ON MAY 26TH Palmer Luckey, an American best known for making virtual-reality headsets, alerted the world to an odd phenomenon. YouTube was deleting all comments which mentioned Wumao, slang for propagandists paid by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to flood online forums with pro-CCP views. “Who at Google [YouTube’s parent] decided to censor American comments on American videos hosted in America by an American platform that is already banned in China?” Mr Luckey asked on Twitter.
Mr Luckey was not the first to notice this, but his tech heft drew an immediate response from the right of the political spectrum, with which he has had connections. Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, called it “very disturbing” and asked why YouTube was “censoring Americans on behalf of the CCP”. Jim Banks, a Republican congressman from Indiana, fired off a letter to Sundar Pinchai, Google’s boss. One would expect, he wrote, that the “spirit” of the First Amendment would be extended into the American firm’s online platforms.
Google says the moderation of Wumao and other anti-CCP terms was an “error”, which it has fixed. YouTube’s moderation systems, which are highly automated, had not taken “proper context into account and incorrectly removed some […]
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