In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Google CEO Sundar Pichai claimed that the Southern Poverty Law Center has never flagged a video on YouTube despite being a “trusted flagger.”
Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was questioned about his company’s operations, with one representative focusing on the tech giants “trusted flagger” system. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) discussed Google’s use of outside bodies to monitor and report objectionable content on their platforms, one of these trusted bodies is the Southern Poverty Law Center which has long been known to label conservatives as extremists.
“In previous hearings and discussions, Google has described the ‘trusted flagger’ program as a source for recommending content be removed from your platform,” said Rep. Johnson when speaking to Pichai. “Recently, Google released a transparency report on content removal where it revealed that out of the 7.7 million automated flagging removals from your platform, YouTube, around 70 percent of that content was removed before it had received any views from the public.”
Rep. Johnson continued to state: “Here’s the question, how does Google ensure that content removed in the automated process is not merely because of philosophical or political differences?” Pichai replied: “Congressmen, it’s an important question as you said, YouTube is committed to being a platform for freedom of expression and we go to great lengths to do that. We only handle videos in areas of clearly defined policies we have, we do have automated systems but we assess it, we later spot check it to make sure the system is working as is intended. We respond to feedback, as content creators can appeal if they think something was removed erroneously.”
Pichai continued to say: “It’s really important to us that we provide a platform for freedom of expression, but enforce the rules of the road on areas where we have said but we are very transparent about the areas and the clear policies in which we do those things.”
Later in the hearing, Johnson brought up the previous hearing of Google’s Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, Juniper Downs, where Johnson had questioned Downs about the Alliance Defending Freedom’s content being removed from YouTube after being flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center which Johnson said had an infamous reputation for being a “radical left organization” that opposed conservative viewpoints.
Johnson asked: “What criteria does Google use when granting trusted flagger status to third parties such as the SPLC?” to which Pichai replied: “I first want to clarify one thing, our trusted flaggers don’t remove content, they can flag content for us to review and we review flagged content. It’s mostly used by law enforcement, many nonprofit agencies in areas, many important areas, like child safety and so on.”
Pichai further continued to state: “The Southern Poverty Law Center is a trusted flagger system, people can register, last we checked they never flagged a single video on our platform. We have reached out to a wide variety of organizations including conservative organizations, we would be happy to take your suggestions to add organizations as suggested flaggers.” Johnson stated that he appreciated that and that “we need a little objectivity in the reviewers.”
Watch Sundar Pichai’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee here.