Users

Congress Live-Streamed Its Hearing on Social-Media Moderation, and the Comments Were Flooded With Racist Trolls

Trolls flooded the comment section of YouTube's livestream of the congressional hearing.
Trolls flooded the comment section of YouTube’s livestream of the congressional hearing.
Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee used YouTube on Tuesday to live-stream its hearing concerning “the content filtering practices of social media giants” on Tuesday, which featured representatives from the video-sharing platform and its peers Facebook and Twitter.

During the hearing, which was largely uneventful, trolls flooded the livestream’s comment section with racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and conspiracy-stoking insults such as “I remember when Q raped you,” a reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory, and “jewbook,” a derogatory term for Facebook popular with the far right.

YouTube comments
YouTube comments
Will Oremus

The vitriol, aimed the social media companies and members of Congress, intensified over the course of the hearing and became particularly atrocious when Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, an Indian-Malayi woman, began asking questions. Trolls wrote racist comments like “george foreman in a wig,” “HER FACE LOOKS LIKE A SMASHED PRUNE,” and “Kenya is not sending their best” during Jayapal’s allotted time at the hearing.

YouTube comments
YouTube comments
Will Oremus

It appears that some of these trolls came to the YouTube video from 4chan’s infamous “Politically Incorrect” forum. At 12:43 p.m., while Judicial Committee was still in session, a 4chan user posted a screenshot of Jayapal at the hearing along with the link. Commenters on the forum thread further accused the social media companies of upholding the “pedocracy” and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of being party to a Jewish conspiracy.

YouTube and other social media platforms have long struggled with hate speech and harassment. The topic came up several times during the hearing, though often from Republicans who were questioning how these companies determine what hate speech is. Though it can be difficult to determine what user content is acceptable, the comment section of YouTube’s livestream was a perfect example of how trolling can run rampant on these platforms.