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Sen. Josh Hawley criticizes Google over deletion of certain comments critical toward China (GOOGL)

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter to Google on Wednesday about the company's deletion of some comments critical of China
  • Comments using the phrases "communist bandit" or "50-cent party" in Chinese characters were deleted almost instantly from YouTube, though their English equivalents are not. 
  • Hawley called the deletions "censorship" and asked Google to explain how the problem came about and when it knew about the deletions. 
  • Google says the deletions are accidental and that it rolled out a fix to the problem. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Sen. Josh Hawley is demanding answers from Google about the company's deletion of certain comments critical of the Chinese government

In a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday, Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, called the deletions "censorship at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party," though Google has said the actions are accidental and that it is working to fix the problem. 

Comments using the phrases "communist bandit" or "50-cent party" in Chinese characters are removed almost instantly from YouTube, though their English equivalents are not. 

In a statement to Business Insider about Hawley's letter, a YouTube spokesperson said, "We're always working to resolve issues on YouTube. Upon review by our teams, we have confirmed this was an error in our enforcement systems and have rolled out a fix."

In the letter, Hawley asked Google to tell him when the company first became aware of the deletions and to explain any discussions about the specific terms. He also asked Pichai to "explain whether Google or its partners had any conversations with members, representatives, or proxies of the Chinese Communist Party about these terms." 

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz also criticized the deletions, calling them "very disturbing." 

"Why is Google/YouTube censoring Americans on behalf of the CCP? This is WRONG & Big Tech is drunk with power," he said in a tweet. "DOJ needs to stop this NOW." 

The YouTube spokesperson said the deletions were not the result of a policy change, but rather an error in automated content moderation that failed to take proper context into account. 

But, Hawley noted in the letter Google's history of censoring content to appease China; Google was widely criticized in 2018, including by its own employees, for a internal search engine project called Dragonfly that reportedly sought to censor the terms "human rights" and "student protest," as well as send data to Beijing. 

While Dragonfly was set to launch in China, the comments at the center of Hawley's concern were deleted on YouTube, which is blocked in China. 

Hawley is a staunch critic of both Beijing and big tech, and often scrutinizes actions by American tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as Chinese companies like ByteDance, the owner of Tik Tok. 

Hawley has previously gone after Google for other issues such as antitrust concerns and child privacy laws. Before his time in the US Senate, Hawley was the attorney general for Missouri, where he launched an antitrust probe against Google

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