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YouTube Censoring Comments Discussing Wu Mao, Chinese Government “50 Cent” Commenters and Trolls

YouTube Wu Mao

UPDATE:

A YouTube representative have explained to the Verge that the deleted comments were due to an error. “This appears to be an error in our enforcement systems and we are investigating.”

The Verge also reports that they they discovered a Google Support thread from late December 2019 on the exact same issue, meaning it must have been occurring for at least six months. “共匪” or “Communist Bandit” is another censored word, used to insult those in support of the Chinese Communist government.

They report the comments were deleted in as little as 15 seconds. They propose that “these phrases seem to have been accidentally added to YouTube’s comment filters, which automatically remove spam and offensive text.” 

YouTube had also stated they were using more automated filters due to complications brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Original Story:

YouTube are seemingly censoring and deleting comments discussing Wu Mao, the Chinese government’s “50 Cent Party,” hired commenters and trolls.

The allegations from Oculus VR co-founder Palmer Luckey. He posted a shocking claim to Facebook, and read as follows.

“YouTube has deleted every comment I have ever made about the Wumao (五毛), an internet propaganda division of the Chinese Communist Party. Who at Google decided to censor American comments on American videos hosted in America by an American platform that is already banned in China?

This appears to be a new global policy on YouTube, not directed at me specifically. Try saying anything negative about the 五毛, or even mentioning them at all. Your comment will last about 30 seconds and get deleted without warning or notice, CCP-censor style. To what end?

It will be interesting to see if this gets any mainstream media coverage over the coming days and weeks. Nothing so far.”

 

Wu Mao refers to Chinese Internet commentators hired by the Chinese government in an attempt to sway public [1, 2]. Wu Mao specifically means 50 cents, as some believe each member is paid 0.50 RMB (0.07 USD est.) per post they make [1, 2, 3].

Editor’s Note: In Chinese currency, the nation uses renminbi (RMB) for individual transactions and within the country. The Chinese yuan (CNY) is used in economic and financial contexts (via Investopedia). Even so, RMB and CNY are used interchangeably internationally.

Other duties include derailing conversations that the Chinese government deem problematic, promoting the government and its objectives in a positive light, while spreading misinformation and slander against its opponents (including foreign politicians) [1, 2].

 

When conducting this test ourselves, we posted “Wumao (五毛),” and also found the comments vanished around 20 seconds. After several of these tests across old and new public videos, we tested “Wumao,” “Wu mao,” and “五毛” separately. Wumao and Wu Mao both remained up, while 五毛 was swiftly deleted.

While the term had been banned in China, seeing it on an American platform has worrying implications. First and foremost, it means that Google is complicit in censoring user generated content YouTube on behalf of the Chinese government.

Google had terminated plans for a search engine in China that would be censored as per government regulations (called Dragonfly) after public outcry.

As the word is in Chinese, the move is also clearly directed at Chinese users. It stands to reason that the reason for the deletion would be to prevent Chinese users who had gotten beyond the “Great Firewall of China” using VPNs to find it harder to learn more about the group.

 

This in turn begs what else would Google internationally censor on behalf of the Chinese government, especially since Google had already been accused of manipulating search results.

It casts a new light on Google attempting to stop the spread of disinformation on the coronavirus pandemic via bans and demonetization [1, 2].

While it is to purportedly to prevent panic and harm, could this also be to help protect the Chinese government from scrutiny over their handling of the virus, and theories of the virus’ origin (false or otherwise)?

 

Again, we must emphasize the deleted comment was written in Chinese, while the English terms were untouched. English videos discussing Wu Mao also appear to be freely available.

YouTube deleting Chinese comments may indicate that other Chinese videos would suffer similar censorship. However, there is no evidence at this stage of it affecting comments or videos in other languages.

The gaming world has certainly seen companies seemingly following the wishes of the Chinese government, usually followed by outcry.

 

The most prominent of these was in 2019, when pro-Hearthstone player Blitzchung was suspended by Blizzard Entertainment for his support of the Hong Kong protests, firing the casters, and their overall handing of the entire debacle [123].

Recently a Chinese Alpha build of Steam was leaked, revealing it limited user’s playtime during certain hours, had unskippable health warning screens before every game, and that users names and avatars were currently censored.

Chinese moderators for Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord also asked users to report any users saying anything in the in-game chat that violated Chinese law. War Thunder has also removed the Taiwanese flag from the game, despite it being historically accurate.

Back in late 2018, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege had a patch to make the game appropriate for release in “Asian territories”- removing sexual, violent, and gambling based content such as models and icons. After review bombing and community outcry, the patch was rolled back.

 

Many other western industries have been affected as well. As we had mentioned in a prior article, NBA Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey showed his support for the Hong Kong protests, resulting in the Chinese government refusing to broadcast NBA games in China.

South Park‘s “Band in China” episode also mocked entertainment companies such as Disney attempting to appeal to Chinese government censors.

There is also an extensive list of actions companies have taken to avoid upsetting the Chinese government in the last few years. Including the denial of Tibet and Taiwan as independent nations (even referring to Taiwan as its own country by accident), mentions of the Tienanmen Square Massacre, giving cloud and smartphone encryption keys to Chinese authorities, removal of intentionally pro Hong Kong comments and works, and firing employees for supporting the Hong Kong protests.

 

One incident had Tiffany & Co. removing and apologizing for an advert of a model with her hand over one eye, after claims it was supporting the Hong Kong protests. At least one protester had been blinded in one eye after being shot by police.

Other changes and kowtowing not on the above list include the remakes of Red Dawn and Top Gun compared to their original counterparts- making North Korea the villain instead of China in the former, and removing Japanese and Taiwanese flags in the latter.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

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Image: Wikipedia, Rank Currency

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Ryan Pearson

About

Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.