YouTube has said it is “looking into” an alleged “error” in its system after it censored the term “Wumao,” a common description for online propagandists for the Chinese Communist Party. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) sent a letter to Google asking the company to explain its censorship after tech pioneer Palmer Luckey pointed it out on social media.
Palmer Luckey, the VR pioneer who created the Oculus Rift and was forced out of Facebook over his pro-Trump views, said that YouTube had deleted all of his comments using the term “Wumao.” Luckey then added that the censorship appears to be throughout YouTube, not just on his comments.
This appears to be a new global policy on YouTube, not directed at me specifically. Try saying anything negative about the 五毛, or even mentioning them at all. Your comment will last about 30 seconds and get deleted without warning or notice, CCP-censor style. To what end?
— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) May 26, 2020
The term “Wumao” translates as “50 cents,” a reference to the “50 cent army,” a colloquial term for China’s legion of digital propagandists.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) reportedly sent a letter to Google following Luckey’s posts, asking the company to explain why the term is being censored.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), another of the more vocal China critics on the hill, also demanded answers from the tech giant.
I’d like to know the answer to this @Google https://t.co/CuVTTw46Uc
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) May 26, 2020
Luckey’s tweets followed reports earlier this month from the Epoch Times, a global newspaper founded by Chinese dissidents, that YouTube was automatically deleting the comments. The newspaper reported that the terms were being deleted automatically.
Via The Epoch Times:
Comments that contain such phrases are deleted within seconds, which suggests that it’s the work of an algorithm.
One apparently banned phrase is “gongfei” (共匪), which can be translated as “communist bandit.” It seems to date back to the Chinese civil war era.
Another phrase that has been deleted is “wumao” (五毛), which literally means “fifty cents” and is commonly used to describe the army of internet trolls the CCP uses to spread its propaganda online. It’s rumored the trolls used to be paid around 50 cents per post.
Google and YouTube did not respond to Breitbart News’ request for comment at the time of these reports.
This appears to be an error in our enforcement sys & we're looking into it. People can report suspected issues to troubleshoot errors & help us make product improvements. This isn't a new policy or result of a policy change. Appreciate you reporting it.https://t.co/GaU5pKzv4l
— YouTubeInsider (@YouTubeInsider) May 26, 2020
After Luckey’s tweets went viral, attracting the attention of the mainstream tech media, YouTube’s official Twitter account finally responded, stating that the removal of the anti-CCP terms was an “error in our enforcement.”
“This isn’t a new policy or result of a policy change. Appreciate you reporting it.”
Despite YouTube’s comment, a question still remains: if this really was just an error, why did the company remain silent until the story picked up more attention?
Are you an insider at Google, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or any other tech company who wants to confidentially reveal wrongdoing or political bias at your company? Reach out to Allum Bokhari at his secure email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.
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