YouTube has confirmed that it has accidentally been deleting two phrases that insult China’s Communist Party. But according to the world’s largest video streaming platform, this isn’t deliberate and instead is an error in its automated moderation systems.
“This appears to be an error in our enforcement systems and we are investigating,” said a YouTube spokesperson.
As the report by TheVerge notes, this isn’t a mistake that happened just recently. They’ve found evidence of this occurring as early as October 2019, or about 6 months ago. It was only recently that this phenomenon was drawn attention to by the founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey. He noted that every comment he made about the Wumao (五毛) was deleted by YouTube within a matter of 30 seconds.
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
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If you’re wondering, Wumao (五毛) is a derogatory term used for internet users who are paid to direct online discussion away from criticism of the Chinese Communist Party. Not just this, but comments that contained the words “共匪” (“communist bandit”) or “五毛” (“50-cent party”) were also deleted. If you’re wondering why 50-cent, it’s because the nomenclature is derived from claims that ‘Wumaos’ are paid 50 Chinese cents per post.
YouTube hasn’t offered insight on how the term was included in the moderation system that’s designed to filter out harassment, spam and hate speech. But YouTube had recently clarified how – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – it was relying more on technology than human intervention. Although, this doesn’t completely explain the occurrence of this phenomenon over 6 months ago when the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t even been reported.