YouTube moderators disabled comments on livestreams of the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing about hate crimes the rise of white nationalism on Tuesday, deeming them too hateful for the platform.
The comment sections quickly flooded with hate speech and white nationalist memes before the hearing had even started. The comments included derogatory remarks about women on camera, anti-Semitic slurs, far-right memes with references to “white genocide,” and pro-Trump slogans. The channels’ comments sections were deactivated within an hour.
“Hate speech has no place on YouTube. 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,” a spokesperson for YouTube told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “Due to the presence of hateful comments, we disabled comments on the livestream of today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.” YouTube also confirmed the closures in a tweet.
The biggest channels showing the hearing on YouTube on Tuesday were PBS NewsHour’s YouTube channel, the official House Judiciary Committee Hearings’s YouTube channel, and Red Ice TV, a white nationalist YouTube channel based out of Sweden. PBS’s comment section was disabled first, then the official stream’s comment section, and then finally Red Ice’s.
YouTube’s disabling of comments is ironic: House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, made special reference in his opening statement of the role social media platforms play in spreading hate speech and extremism in his opening statement.
“These 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,” Nalder said. “As the New Zealand attack showed, some hateful ideological rhetoric that originates in the United States is now used to inspire terror worldwide.”
The comment sections began to go down before the testimony of Alexandria Walden, who works on Google's public policy counsel. A representative from Facebook was also present at Tuesday’s hearing. A representative from Twitter was not.
Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson Walden, a Democrat, about what exactly Google does to block extremist content on platforms like YouTube.
“Most recently we have made updates to our recommendation algorithm so that content on the borderline isn’t pushed out from our recommendation engine,” Walden said. “It can also be demonetized and comments can be disabled."
Red Ice TV was the final channel to have its comments disabled. Their stream was titled “House Judiciary committee Hearing on Criminalizing Nationalism for White People" and it was not just a stream of the hearing on their channel — it had two hosts, well-known white nationalists Henrik Palmgren and Lana Lokteff, doing live commentary.
Red Ice TV’s stream was also monetized. Commenters were using the Super Chat feature to donate money to the channel during the hearing. At one point a user donated $100 and wrote, “This is nothing but the elites and globalists setting up laws that will be enacted in a single pen stroke against the white race in the future. I am also a person of interest for donating to Red Ice over the years and I don’t f**king care…"
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Red Ice for comment.
Candace Owens, a black conservative activist and communications director for Talking Point USA, was also invited to testify on Tuesday. Her invitation was highly controversial. In February, Owens said, "If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine."
Owens used her time at Tuesday’s hearing to speak about her own experiences with racially motivated violence, and then railed against the press, Democrats, and the NAACP. She also said she believed that anti-fascist activists — or "antifa" — should have been present instead of her.