When the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on white nationalism and the rise of hate crimes in the U.S. Tuesday, YouTube moderators shut down comments that swamped the platform with vitriol and hate.
Hateful comments and white nationalist memes saturated the platform before the live coverage hearing even began, BuzzFeed News reports. The comments ran the gamut from being misogynistic, far-right memes referring to “white genocide,” to anti-Semitic slurs and slogans promoting President Donald Trump.
YouTube reacted, deactivating the comments within an hour. In a statement to BuzzFeed News a YouTube spokesperson had this to say:
“Hate speech has no place on YouTube. We’ve invested heavily in teams and technology dedicated to removing hateful comments and videos and we take action on them when flagged by our users,” the spokesperson said. “Due to the presence of hateful comments, we disabled comments on the livestream of today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.”
YouTube confirmed this in a tweet.
Hate speech has no place on YouTube. We’ve invested heavily in teams and technology dedicated to removing hateful comments / videos. Due to the presence of hateful comments, we disabled comments on the livestream of today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.
— YouTubeInsider (@YouTubeInsider) April 9, 2019
The hearing was streamed on such YouTube channels as PBS NewsHour, the official House Judiciary Committee channel, and Red Ice TV, a white nationalist YouTube channel in Sweden. PBS’s comments were closed first, followed by the Judiciary Committee’s comment section and then Red Ice TV’s.
And it’s nothing if not paradoxical that House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) opening remarks referred to ways in which social media platforms promulgate hate speech and extremism.
“These platforms are utilized as conduits to spread vitriolic hate messages into every home and country,” he said. “Efforts by media companies to counter this surge have fallen short, and social network platforms continue to be used as ready avenues to spread dangerous white nationalist speech. As the New Zealand attack showed, some hateful ideological rhetoric that originates in the United States is now used to inspire terror worldwide.”
As YouTube employees deactivated the chat function on the House’s official channel, Alexandria Walden, who works on Google’s Public Policy counsel, testified that users are bound to Google’s community guidelines, CNBC reports.
“I want to state clearly that every Google product that hosts user content prohibits incitement of violence and hate speech against individuals or groups based on specified attributes,” Walden said. “We view both as grave social ills, so our policies go beyond what the U.S. requires.”
Then she detailed YouTube’s system for flagging and removing content which utilizes people and machine intervention. But with the horrific shootings that killed 50 people last month at two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand, the system was deeply strained. Copies of a video showing one of the attacks proliferated swiftly and YouTube was unable to keep up with the pace of the uploads.
Google rep claims hate speech "has no place on YouTube." At the same time, the comment stream for this hearing was just disabled because it was filling up with racist / anti-semitic comments. pic.twitter.com/jFtXSdDHYU
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) April 9, 2019
And even though YouTube deactivated comments on the House’s stream, users still found ways to share their toxic propaganda by commenting on other streams or by sharing their own. Red Ice TV, which the Anti-Defamation League describes as being run by white supremacists, provided its own stream of the hearing along with its own commentary.
Should be interesting to hear Google's testimony today considering Red Ice, a white nationalist YouTube channel, is literally doing a live reaction stream to the hearing pic.twitter.com/hkMESYLXj1
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) April 9, 2019
Red Ice TV was the last channel to have its comments disabled, but the most disturbing thing about this is that the platform’s stream was monetized. Commenters used the Super Chat feature to donate money as the hearing wore on. One person donated $100, and wrote:
“This is nothing but the elites and globalists setting up laws that will be enacted in a single pen stroke against the white race in the future. I am also a person of interest for donating to Red Ice over the years and I don’t f***ing care…”
Here’s a smattering of some of the hateful comments, followed at the end by a video in which Mohammad Abu-Salha describes the tragic murder of his two daughters and his son-in-law at the hands of a white nationalist.
This is an absolute mess pic.twitter.com/ogIPGQlD6u
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) April 9, 2019
A remarkable example of how unwieldy YouTube's white nationalism problem is: Google banned livechat on the House's official livestream for its hearing on white supremacy on social media because of all the Nazis commenting.
So they moved over to other livestreams, like Fox News'. https://t.co/fNH4mKcl8c
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) April 9, 2019
The House Judiciary Committee called for the hearing Tuesday to discuss technology’s role in the spread of hate, and quite obviously this is a complicated issue that isn’t going to disappear any time soon.
In the age of Trump’s America, those who would create harm are crawling out of the woodwork.
Featured image by CBS News via YouTube