Previously, Google's attorney, Alexandria Walden, testified before Congress at a hearing titled "Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism." The Chamber's Judiciary Committee broadcast the video live on Google's own YouTube platform, with a live chat channel. Anyone familiar with YouTube may have dismissed this as a bad decision. The hateful and racist comments are notoriously common on the site and, as expected, some of the worst YouTube users immediately descended into chat with slander and other attacks.
Commentators insulted the chairman of the Jewish committee Jerry Nadler, calling him "goblin" and Some mocked Walden's witness, Mohammad Abu-Salha, whose two daughters were killed in a supposed hate crime. They adopted the same racist conspiracy theories that the Judiciary Committee was trying to address. In less than an hour, the chat was disabled, but not before the incident was covered by several media outlets, including The Washington Post in which Nadler read in the middle of the hearing.
Nobody needed more evidence That YouTube comments can be racist. But beyond the simple irony of an audience on white supremacy invaded by white supremacists, a puzzling question arises: why did not Google anticipate that this would happen?
Honestly, it's disconcerting that YouTube could not predict how the comments would do. watch a live broadcast of the Congress on social networks and white supremacy. pic.twitter.com/0avGuvCciE
– Adi Robertson (@thedextriarchy) April 9, 2019
Today's talk of hearing is not simply an example of moderators missing some bad comments about the hundreds of hours of video uploaded every minute. The broadcast was an event planned in advance on an official YouTube channel run by the government, with a prominent Google employee who promised that "hate speech and violent extremism have no place on YouTube." Surely it was seen by a large audience, including many journalists who
A recent report Bloomberg states that YouTube historically ignored the toxic content because it generates controversy and participation. But even if you are completely cynical about Google's motives, there is a clear incentive to avoid easily avoidable bad publicity. It's hard to see what the company earns by making YouTube's toxicity a result of the main news for the audience. And it would have been easy to pre-disable the live chat or just warn the Judicial Committee to see and moderate the comments.
Google certainly is not against blocking comments. YouTube has deactivated live chat in Google's I / O conference transmissions in the past, and temporarily banned most comments on videos with children earlier this year. In a statement today, Google was a matter of fact blocking the comments of the audience. "Hate speech does not take place on YouTube, we have invested heavily in equipment and technology dedicated to eliminating obnoxious comments / videos Due to the presence of hateful comments, we disallow comments in the live broadcast of the Judiciary Committee hearing. Camera today ", a spokesperson tweeted .
So, why did not the chat go off before the broadcast began? It is possible that Google is worried about being accused of censorship for closing comments without content of clear hate. After all, there has been an agonizing debate about how platforms should moderate speech. Despite being nominally on white supremacy, even today's audience was quickly kidnapped for allegations of alleged anti-conservative biases, while Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) questioned Google and Facebook about whether they were "neutral" platforms.
The speech does not take place on YouTube. We have invested heavily in equipment and technology dedicated to eliminating obnoxious comments / videos. Due to the presence of hateful comments, we disallow the comments in the live broadcast of today's House Judiciary Committee hearing.
– YouTubeInsider (@YouTubeInsider) April 9, 2019
It's also possible that Google does not fully understand how pervasive are the intolerant comments on YouTube or how inescapable the clutter of the live audience was. today from outside. Google has certainly lost the brand before; YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged that Rewind's retrospective last year did not reflect the experience of many users with the site, for example. Companies do not always have a clear idea of how people use their products, and YouTube may not be the exception.
But today, Google has not done many hours of testimony by not noticing a very obvious problem in its platform in an exceptional case in which the correct solution also seemed obvious.