YouTube Disables Comments on Livestream of House Hearing on Hate Speech

U.S. Capitol
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WASHINGTON — YouTube has disabled the commenting function on a livestream of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crimes because the event was generating too many hateful remarks.

“Hate speech has no place on YouTube,” said a Google spokesperson. “We’ve invested heavily in teams and technology dedicated to removing hateful comments and videos and we take action on them when flagged by our users. Due to the presence of hateful comments, we disabled comments on the livestream of today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.”

The hearing on hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism featured representatives from Google and Facebook, but as it played out, commenters posted a number of anti-Semitic messages and racist remarks before the function was disabled, according to the Washington Post.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said that hate incidents are on the rise in the United States, and that tech platforms “are utilized as conduits to spread vitriolic hate messages into every home and country.  Efforts by media companies to counter this surge have fallen short, and social network platforms continue to be used as ready avenues to spread dangerous white nationalist speech.”

Alexandria Walden of Google told the committee that “we take these issues seriously and want to be part of the solution.” She said that they have heavily invested in means to remove content that incites violence and includes hate speech.

“We know, however, that the very platforms that have enabled these societal benefits may also be abused, ranging from the annoying, like spam, to the criminal, like child pornography,” she said.

Facebook’s Neil Potts said the social media platform has “defined protocols” to pass on threats of imminent violence and imminent danger to law enforcement as soon as we become aware of them.” He added that the company employs 30,000 people to “focus on safety and security.”

The hearing also featured representatives from civil rights groups like the Anti Defamation League, the Equal Justice Society, and the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, as well as Candace Owens, the conservative commentator and political activist.

In her remarks, she said that she has been a target of hateful attacks, and cast blame on the media for “not telling the truth about me” because “I don’t fit the stereotype in what they like to see in black people. I am a Democrat. I support the president of the United States and I advocate for things that are actually affecting the black community.”

She also called into question the premise of the hearing, accusing Democrats of stoking fear of hate crimes and white nationalism as an electoral strategy. She noted that her  75-year-old grandfather, who grew up on sharecropping farm in the segregated south, was with her at the hearing.

“There isn’t a single adult today that in good conscience would make the argument today that America is a more racist or a more white nationalist society than it was when my grandfather was growing up,” she said. “And yet we are hearing these terms sent around today because what they want to say is that brown people need to be scared, which seems to be the narrative we hear every four years, right before a presidential election.”

But FBI statistics show that hate crimes rose in 2017 for the third straight year. According to their figures, there were 7,175 incidents, compared to 6,121 in 2016 and 5,850 in 2015.

Owens’ past remarks came under scrutiny later in the hearing.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said that he didn’t know Owens and was “not going to characterize her. I’m going to let her own words do the talking.”

He played remarks that Owens once made about Adolf Hitler, in which she said that if he wanted to “just make Germany great and run well, OK fine. The problems is that he had dreams outside of Germany.”

Owens responded to Lieu, saying that “it was pretty apparent that Mr. Lieu believes that black people are stupid and will not pursue the full clip in its entirety.”

Nadler interrupted her, saying that it was “not proper” for a witness to refer disparagingly to a member of the committee.

“Sure, even though I was called despicable,” she said. She said that in the remark, she had been responding to whether she believes in nationalism. “What I responded to was that I do not believe that we should be characterizing Hitler as a nationalist. He was a homicidal, psychopathic maniac who killed his own people. A nationalist would not kill their own people.”