YouTube said Tuesday it was investigating the removal of comments critical of the Chinese Communist Party from the video-sharing platform, saying the filtering appeared to be “an error.” The comments from the Google-owned video service came after a media report in The Verge prompted by complaints from technology entrepreneur Palmer Luckey.
Luckey, a founder of the virtual reality group Oculus who is now with a defense tech firm, tweeted on Monday that “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.
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?
— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) May 26, 2020
Other Twitter users responded to Luckey’s tweet that they, too, believed comments about the CCP had been removed.
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.”
This is very disturbing. Why is Google/YouTube censoring Americans on behalf of the CCP? This is WRONG & Big Tech is drunk with power. The Sherman Act prohibits abusing monopoly power. DOJ needs to stop this NOW. https://t.co/i96PIpY9de
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 26, 2020
Cruz appeared to be referencing unsubstantiated comments from the White House that large tech firms are biased against conservatives and should be hit for antitrust violations.
YouTube said in a statement to AFP it had made no policy changes and that its filters are 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.”
The internet platform said it has been relying more on automated systems during the coronavirus pandemic as its human reviewers have been sent home.
YouTube said in March it expected to see more content removal as a result of its reliance on machine learning instead of human moderators.