On May 26, 2020, James Vincent of The Verge reported that since at least October 2019, YouTube users had been reporting that any comments including two phrases that are critical of the Chinese Communist Party were being automatically removed from videos.  The article explains:

“Comments left under videos or in live streams that contain the words “共匪” (“communist bandit”) or “五毛” (“50-cent party”) are automatically deleted in around 15 seconds, though their English language translations and Romanized Pinyin equivalents are not.”

Although, as Mr. Vincent had explained, the problem was public knowledge for several months, Google did not comment on it publicly until the publication of his reporting.  This oversight is especially peculiar in that the reason the deletions were public knowledge was because they were reported on Google’s own forums.

(Update for May 4, 2023: Changed heading structure and removed reference to now-defunct Guestbook. Content otherwise remains unchanged from original 2020 publication.)

Vague Explanations

Today (May 27), Mr. Vincent reported that YouTube has begun fixing an “error” in its comment moderation system that caused certain criticism of the Chinese government to be censored.  In its statement to The Verge, YouTube stated that it had fixed the issue several times before and is investigating the deeper cause of the error.

What is this error of which YouTube speaks?  YouTube won’t tell us that – only that it is an error in its “enforcement systems.”  But, YouTube assures us, there has been no change in its comment moderation policies.  The deletions are not the result of any policy at all.  The phenomenon is merely an error, you see.

The Errors Always Seem to Cut One Way

Mr. Vincent notes, without making any accusations of course, that “[t]here have been similar examples of mysterious errors with pro-[Chinese Communist Party] bias appearing in Google’s automated systems before.”  One would certainly hope that these are truly mysterious errors, not only because censoring Americans on behalf of the Chinese government errs on the side of evil, but also because, as Mr. Vincent explains, “YouTube is banned in China, giving the company no incentive to censor anti-[Chinese Communist Party] comments.”  Indeed, I would submit that it would be rather pathetic for a corporation to be doing the Chinese Communist Party’s bidding in the vain hope that it might be allowed to merely do some business in China.  At least the National Basketball Association televised its games there.

A Digression Confession

In light of Google’s struggles to not inadvertently protect Chinese Communist Party sensitivities by not censoring Americans and others, I must confess that we have a similar problem here at The New Leaf Journal.  You will notice that there is no comments section on our posts.  We may never know what causes this error, but I pledge to you that I will do my utmost to get to the bottom of it.

(All jokes aside, we are still working on implementing ways to interact with our readers on site.  Comments on posts, however, will not be among them.  The algorithms, you see.)

Looking Forward

After recently posting an article criticizing many Americans for echoing Chinese propaganda, I must give due credit to Mr. Vincent for reporting on YouTube’s mysterious errors and obtaining a response from Google.  You can read my earlier thoughts on Chinese Communist Party propaganda in the United States related to the virus it let loose on the world here.

I certainly do hope that this all resulted, as Google would have us believe, from an error.  For otherwise, I would have to agree with the junior United States Senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley, who today wrote in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai:  “This kowtowing is unacceptable.  Selling out American principles to curry favor with communist officials is no way to run an American business…”

Google is, ostensibly, an American company.  We here at The New Leaf Journal are among the millions of American websites that rely on Google and its tools, among others, for reaching new audiences.  Speaking for myself, I hope that Google works diligently to comport with American principles and avoid further errors consistent with the desires of the Chinese Communist Party.

(Update for 4/3/2021: We switched from Google Analytics to Koko Analytics in July 2020.)