independent– US lawmakers have asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai to explain YouTube’s policies surrounding extremism on its platform.
Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee outlined their concerns about dangerous content hosted on YouTube in a letter sent to Mr Pichai on Wednesday.
“We are deeply troubled by the growing threat of extremism propagating on your platform and write to inquire about YouTube’s policies and enforcement efforts to combat extremism and protect its viewers,” the letter states.
“YouTube states that it will remove videos that violate its hate speech policy and violent criminal organisations policy, but disinformation, viral conspiracy theories, and incendiary content that indoctrinates, radicalises, and mobilises extremists continues to flourish on YouTube.”
The letter highlights particular concerns relating to white supremacist content, citing several studies that warn of its rise in the US in recent years. It states that 67 per cent of all extremist activity in the US in the last year was committed by such extremists, and claims that YouTube has become a “fertile breeding ground” for white supremacist content.
YouTube’s own figures claim that views of white supremacist content have fallen by 80 per cent since 2018, however the lawmakers cited a 2020 study by the Anti-Defamation League that found one in 10 respondents watched a video from an extremist channel during a three month period.
The lawmakers called on YouTube to make “meaningful reforms” to its policies and to “strengthen enforcement efforts” in order to eradicate dangerous content from its
“Gaining users, maintaining engagement, and generating more advertising revenue cannot come at the expense of our national security,” the letter states.
Mr Pichai is expected to appear alongside other high-profile tech executives later this month at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in order to testify about Google’s handling of misinformation relating to last year’s US election and the pandemic.
Google has until 17 March to respond to the latest letter. The Independent has reached out to the firm for comment.