GOP Congressmen grill Google for making SPLC a 'trusted flagger' on YouTube

Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas speaking at a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 11, 2018.
Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas speaking at a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 11, 2018. | YouTube/CNET

Republican members of Congress were critical of Google CEO Sundar Pichai for his company’s decision to give the Southern Poverty Law Center power to help monitor the content of videos on YouTube. 

Pichai gave testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee regarding issues of Google political bias, privacy concerns, and transparency. 

Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas began his remarks by commending Pichai for what his company does and by noting that he opposes excessive government regulation of Google. 

Rep. Gohmert then noted that his problem with Google was “when the government gives it immunity from lawsuits over to a private corporation” whose leader “doesn’t even realize that there is political bias run amok in his company.” 

As an example, Gohmert cited Google’s decision to make the Southern Poverty Law Center one of more than one hundred non-government entities that monitors YouTube's content as part of the site’s "Trusted Flaggers" program.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center really has stirred up more hate than about any other group I know,” stated Gohmert, who then cited the 2012 attempted mass shooting at the Family Research Council headquarters by Floyd Lee Corkins. 

A gay rights activist, Corkins explained to authorities that he decided to target the FRC because of their placement on the SPLC’s list of hate groups. 

“They stirred up hate against the [FRC] and a guy goes in shooting,” Gohmert told Pichai. “You consider them a ‘trusted flagger’ and yet they keep creating problems for people who are not haters.” 

“You’re so surrounded by liberality that hates conservatism, hates people that really love our Constitution and the freedoms its afforded people like you, that you don’t even recognize it.” 

Gohmert argued that Google should be liable when his company and the companies they are connected to use their technology to attack conservatives. 

Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana also asked Pichai about SPLC’s “trusted flagger” status, questioning what the standards are for a group to be considered a “trusted flagger.”

The Google CEO responded that as of the present day the liberal group had “never flagged a single video on our platform.”

Pichai also noted that Google has “reached out to a wide variety of organizations, including conservative organizations” for their “trusted flagger” program. He also welcomed suggestions for conservative groups to add to their list.

“Our trusted flaggers don’t remove content. They can flag content for us to review and we review flagged content,” explained Pichai. “It’s mostly used by law enforcement, many nonprofit agencies in important areas like child safety, terrorism, and so on.” 

In recent times, YouTube and other social media sites have been criticized for their reported censorship and mistreatment of conservative accounts and posts. 

Last October, popular conservative YouTube account PragerU filed a lawsuit against the social media video site and Google over accusing them of using “their restricted mode filtering ... as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU.”  

In February, YouTube restricted access to a video posted by the conservative nonprofit PragerU featuring pro-life activist Lila Rose criticizing Planned Parenthood.

Titled "What You Need to Know about Planned Parenthood," the video was restricted within hours of being uploaded, making it harder for it to be viewed by people with certain privacy settings.

In 2017, conservative theologian and radio host Dr. Michael Brown saw his YouTube videos demonetized and saw a drop in viewership after Google deemed his videos unsuitable for advertisers. 

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook 

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