YouTube has responded to reports that it has been automatically removing comments criticizing the Chinese government, explaining that the apparent censorship is actually a bug in its automated moderation systems.
Comments on the platform that used the Chinese phrases for “communist bandit” or “50-cent party” – two terms tied to criticism of the Chinese Communist Party – were removed almost instantly, even if those comments were positive.
The latter term (五毛 or “50-cent party”) refers to China’s censorship efforts, particularly the idea that the government pays users to comment online and deflect criticism of the government.
In a statement, a YouTube spokesperson said the comments were automatically deleted due to a bug in its automated systems that the company is investigating.
“Users can report suspicious issues to fix bugs and help us improve products,” said the spokesperson.
According to YouTube, the situation is an unwanted effect of the platform’s comment moderation system, which is designed to filter out hate speech, harassment, and spam. The company did not offer further information on how the terms ended up marked by its automated systems.
With the vast majority of their workers out of the office, major technology platforms have relied more on AI-based moderation methods, even knowing that less human supervision would likely lead to a higher error rate.