YouTube says glitch in moderation system is responsible for deleting comments containing phrases that criticize China’s Communist Party

  • YouTube says comments criticizing communist party were auto-moderated
  • The platform didn’t offer further explanation but said it was investigating 
  • Deletions have been taking place for at least six months
  • YouTube has been accused of accommodating Chinese censorship previously 

YouTube has been purging comments on its platform that contain phrases criticizing China’s Communist party according to The Verge.

The platform says that the deletion of those comments was apparently caused by a bug in its moderation algorithm and is currently being investigated.   

‘This appears to be an error in our enforcement systems and we are investigating,’ a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge.

Issues with the deletion of the critical phrases were highlighted this week but also surfaced in mid-May when human rights activist Jennifer Zeng called attention to the practice on Twitter.

YouTube says its deletion of phrases that are critical of the Communist party was the result of its auto-moderation systems (stock)

While YouTube says that the moderation was done in error, it didn’t offer any specific explanation on how or why the phrases were flagged by its system. 

According to The Verge, the Chinese phrases ‘共匪’ which means ‘Communist Bandit’ and ‘五毛’ which means ’50-cent party’ – the latter of which refers to commenters who are allegedly paid around that amount to lead online discussions in favor or China’s ruling party.

The Verge reports that those phrases had been automatically added to YouTube’s filters and had been consistently deleted for the past six months. 

As noted by The Verge, YouTube is currently blocked in China which makes the addition of the phrases to its auto-moderated list of terms puzzling.

YouTube has been at the center of similar criticisms over accommodating censorship views of China’s Communist party, notably by creating a search engine called ‘Project Dragonfly’ that adhered to China’s strict rules around free speech.


YouTube has pointed to an increased reliance on auto-moderation for the ‘accidental’ removal of videos as COVID-19 forces many of its human moderators out of work. 

Last month, YouTube its blamed auto-moderation tool for removing a live-stream of a women’s sex conference.

According to a report from the Daily Dot, the conference, called Women of Sex Tech, had its live feed auto-banned from YouTube just four minutes into the broadcast for allegedly violating the platform’s community guidelines. 

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