Youtube Shuts Down Comments on House Hearing Because of Hateful Responses

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"Google confirmed to CNBC that the feature was disabled ”[d]ue to the presence of hateful comments.”

CNBC, April 9, 2019

YouTube shut down the chat feature on a livestream of the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on white nationalism Tuesday after it was inundated with hateful comments.

Just around the time that a representative from YouTube parent company Google spoke about the company’s content moderation efforts, some noticed the live chat function had already been disabled. But commenters simply seemed to move to other streams of the video on YouTube’s platform, enraged by the company’s attempt to block their posts.

“Look at Google deciding for us what we can’t see!” one commenter wrote on Fox Business channel’s YouTube stream of the hearing. By Tuesday afternoon, the comment feature on the Fox Business live stream was also disabled.

Google confirmed to CNBC that the feature was disabled ”[d]ue to the presence of hateful comments.”

“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 company said in a statement.

The incident is a microcosm of the problem YouTube and other social media platforms have faced when it comes to removing hate speech. The House Judiciary Committee called Tuesday’s hearing to discuss tech’s role in the spread of white nationalism and possible solutions, but the comments on its own stream underscore the complexity of that issue.

As YouTube apparently worked to disable the chat function on the House’s official livestream, Alexandria Walden, a Google counsel for free expression and human rights, told the committee that users are bound to the company’s community guidelines.

“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 in her opening statement. “We view both as grave social ills, so our policies go beyond what the U.S. requires.” ...
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