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Extremists overrun a white nationalism hearing on YouTube

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The United Kingdom is acting very quickly to regulate social media platforms in the wake of recent wh
 
April 9 · Issue #312 · View online
The Interface
The United Kingdom is acting very quickly to regulate social media platforms in the wake of recent white-nationalist terror attacks. The United States, on the other hand, is acting as it normally does: holding a deeply unsatisfying Congressional hearing, and letting that stand as a substitute for action.
The subject of today’s hearing of the House Judiciary Committee was “Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism.” Witnesses included Google lawyer Alexandria Walden, Facebook policy director Neil Potts, and far-right activist Candace Owens, who repeatedly criticized Democrats for suggesting tech platforms contribute to the spread of hateful ideologies.
Meanwhile, on the tech platform YouTube, users … spread their hateful ideologies. Adi Robertson reports in The Verge:
The House Judiciary Committee streamed the video live on Google’s own YouTube platform, complete with a live chat feed. Anybody who’s even passingly familiar with YouTube might have flagged this as a bad decision. Hateful, racist comments are notoriously common on the site, and, unsurprisingly, some of YouTube’s worst users immediately descended on the chat with slurs and other attacks.
Commenters insulted Jewish committee chair Jerry Nadler, calling him a “goblin,” and some mocked Walden’s fellow witness, Mohammad Abu-Salha, whose two daughters were killed in an alleged hate crime. They espoused the same racist conspiracy theories that the Judiciary Committee was trying to address. Within an hour, the chat was disabled — but not before the incident was covered by several media outlets, including The Washington Post, from which Nadler read in the middle of the hearing.
The irony of a hearing about the intersection of big tech and hate speech itself being flooded with hate speech was not lost on the press. (“YouTube Disabled Comments On Livestreams Of A Congressional Hearing On White Nationalism Because They Were Too Hateful,” BuzzFeed noted.) The doomed live-stream chat underscored how all the big tech platforms — and YouTube in particular — struggle to contain the extremism of their user bases. On YouTube, some channels featuring white nationalists offered live commentary on the hearing, and accepted donations using YouTube’s Super Chat feature, Ryan Broderick reported.
More pressing than YouTube chat, though, was the chat at the hearing itself — which went exactly nowhere. “Here’s what this hearing is NOT doing,” the New York Times’ Cecelia Kang tweeted. “Exploring more deeply [the] germination and spread of hate on dark web sites like Gab and 8Chan[, and] asking Facebook and Google how they are looking around corners for how content/recruiting goes from dark web to their platforms.”
Kang is right to seize on the relationship between fringe forums like 8Chan and larger platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which is still not well understood. Given the frequency with which white nationalists on one platform build new followings on others, it’s a subject worthy of serious consideration. (And unworthy of the presence of Candace Owens, who has called concerns about white nationalism “stupid.”)
Instead of that consideration, though, we got a circus. And it won’t be the only one of the week: on Wednesday the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee is holding yet another hearing on the specter of bias against conservatives on big tech platforms. “Bias” in these hearings refers to any time a member of Congress or one of their constituents failed to achieve some desired result in social media — a number of retweets, or a certain placement in search results.
Both white nationalism and hearings about systematic bias against conservatives are, at their root, conspiracy theories — fantasies that a shadowy other is secretly manipulating the world around you, threatening your prosperity. But only one of those issues has so far inspired a global terror movement. Tech platforms have a role to play in reducing the spread of white nationalism — but so, too, does the federal government. And the fact that one house of Congress would rather talk about how many Facebook likes they’re getting ought to give all of us pause.

Democracy
Here's 40 Pages of Facebook Trying to Figure Out What to Do About White Nationalism
Scoop: Senators target "dark patterns" that big tech companies use to trick you
The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Democratic Electorate in Real Life
What kind of local news is Facebook featuring on Today In? Crime, car crashes, and not too much community
Facebook clarifies its use of data for consumers following discussions with the European Commission and consumer authorities
Elsewhere
Facebook's new Watch Party video-streaming feature is wildly popular with pirates, who use it to run illicit movie marathons
Facebook is using AI to map population density around the world
A Man Created An Instagram About Church Leaders In Expensive Designer Shoes. It's Sending People Down An Existential Morality Spiral.
Billionaire Jack Dorsey's 11 wellness hacks: From no food all weekend to ice baths
Q&A: Snap’s VP of Camera Platform, Eitan Pilipski
“Old Town Road” Isn’t Country or Rap or Even Internet—It’s Pure Bliss
Launches
Facebook adds new tributes section to memorialized profiles
YouTube Is Developing Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Programs
And finally ...
Jumbo is a powerful privacy assistant for iOS that cleans up your social profiles
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, and ironic YouTube chats: casey@theverge.com.
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