Rep. Raskin (D-MD) tells Google's CEO that YouTube is “being used to promote propaganda that leads to violent events”

From the December 11 House Judiciary Committee hearing on Google:

Video file

REP. JAMIE RAKSIN (D-MD): Welcome and thank you for your testimony today. Do you know what Frazzledrip is?

SUNDAR PICHAI (CEO OF GOOGLE): I'm not aware of the specifics about it. I've heard some references about it from my team over the past 24 hours. 

RASKIN: I just learned about it in The Washington Post this morning. There's an article with this headline on it: “A platform for free speech that extremists routinely exploit.” And in it, the article explains that the recommendation engine for YouTube -- which is owned by Google, correct? 


RASKIN: “The recommendation engine for YouTube recently suggested videos claiming that politicians, celebrities and other elite figures were sexually abusing or consuming the remains of children, often in satanic rituals, according to watchdog group AlgoTransparency. The claims echo and often cite the discredited Pizzagate conspiracy, which two years ago led to a man firing shots into a Northwest Washington, D.C. pizzeria in search of children he believed were being held as sex slaves by Democratic Party leaders. One recent variation on that theory, which began spreading on YouTube this spring, claimed that Democrat Hillary Clinton and her longtime aide Huma Abedin had sexually assaulted a girl and drank her blood — a conspiracy theory its proponents dubbed 'Frazzledrip.'” Now, the article goes on to describe how this Frazzledrip conspiracy is all over YouTube, and ”some of the Frazzledrip clips purport to show grainy images of Clinton and Abedin committing crimes and speak of invoking the death penalty. One video, which has been viewed 77,000 times and remains online today, has a voice-over that says, 'Will these children become the dessert at the conclusion of the meal?'" So -- and this is just one example that they use of extreme right and paranoid conspiracy groups using YouTube as a place to trade their videos and to promote propaganda. What is your company policy on that, and are you trying to deal with it? 

PICHAI: We are constantly undertaking efforts to deal with misinformation, but we have clearly stated policies, and we have made lots of progress in many of the areas where over the past year, so, for example in areas of terrorism and child safety and so on. We are looking to do more. This was a recent thing but I'm committed to following up on it and making sure we are evaluating these against our policies. It's an area we acknowledge there's more work to be done, and we'll definitely continue doing that.

RASKIN: One of the videos discussed “included images of a body on a table before restrained children and of Hillary Clinton with a bloodied mouth and fangs, claiming that she and Abedin drank the blood of their victim.” That was removed, but then another consisting of an exact copy of the video remained online or apparently remains online. So -- I mean, is your basic position that this is something you want to try to do something about, but basically there is just an avalanche of such material and there's really nothing that can be done, and it should be buyer beware or consumer beware when you go on YouTube? 

PICHAI: We do grapple with difficult issues. Maybe we have to look at it on a video by video basis, and we have clearly stated policies. So we would need to evaluate better the video, the specific video, [if it] violates any of our policies. And we do strive to do it for the volume of content we do get. And we get around 400 hours of video every minute. But it's our responsibility, I think, to make sure YouTube's a platform for freedom of expression, but it's responsible and contributes positively to society.

RASKIN: Some of my colleagues are upset about negative references to Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton or not Barack Obama. And obviously, one potential strategy today is to try to heckle you into somehow playing favorites with Donald Trump and Republicans. I think that that would be a silly and ridiculous takeaway from this. On the other hand, there is material which is a true public danger. You've got a right to have whatever politics you have. I mean, we could subpoena Fox News and bring them in here and beat them up about how 90 percent of the references on Fox News to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are negative, but they've got that right under the First Amendment, and you've got a right under the First Amendment to have whatever political views you've got, but I think the point at which it becomes a matter of serious public interest is when your communications vehicle is being used to promote propaganda that leads to violent events, like the guy showing up within the Pizzagate conspiracy case. And so, I guess, my question is, are you taking that threat seriously?


PICHAI: We have very clear policies against hate speech, things which could incite harm or hatred or violence, and that's an area we are clearly taking a lot of action. But I want to acknowledge there is more work to be done and with our growth comes more responsibility and we are committed to doing better as we invest more in this area.


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