- Google CEO Sundar Pichai was grilled about a wild YouTube conspiracy theory claiming that Hillary Clinton drinks the blood of children.
- It followed a report from The Washington Post, which said the so-called Frazzledrip conspiracy was alive and well on YouTube.
- Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland asked how Google was dealing with the Frazzledrip conspiracy.
- Pichai was careful to avoid specifics but said YouTube needed to do more to tackle misinformation.
Sundar Pichai faced a barrage of bizarre questions Tuesday during his first congressional grilling. The Google CEO was asked why pictures of President Donald Trump came up when users image searched the term “idiot,” and he was also forced to politely explain that iPhones are made by Apple, not Google, to Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
But perhaps the strangest line of questioning came from Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, who picked up a copy of The Washington Post and began citing lines from its report on a twisted YouTube conspiracy theory claiming that Hillary Clinton drinks the blood of children.
The so-called Frazzledrip conspiracy was feverishly spread by far-right internet users earlier this year, at which point YouTube removed a bunch of clips. But The Post said “dozens of videos” discussing the roundly debunked theory remained online and had been viewed millions of times.
The Post said it brought 16 such videos to YouTube’s attention. Only one was removed for violating its policies. It featured images of a “body on a table before restrained children” and “Clinton with a bloodied mouth and fangs,” The Post said. YouTube does not have a policy to remove misinformation, The Post said, but will take down graphic or violent content and hate speech.
After directly quoting from the Frazzledrip report, Raskin asked Pichai: “What is your company policy on that? And are you trying to deal with it?”
The Google CEO was careful to avoid the specifics of the Frazzledrip conspiracy, refusing to address it directly in his responses to Raskin. He did, however, say YouTube needed to do more to tackle misinformation.
“We are constantly undertaking efforts to deal with misinformation. We have clearly stated policies and we have made lots of progress in many of the areas … over the past year – so, for example, in areas like terrorism, child safety, and so on,” he said, adding that he would follow-up on the specifics of Raskin’s request.
At the heart of YouTube’s handling of such videos is balancing the website’s function as a platform for free speech with its need to protect users from inappropriate content. With 400 hours of new video uploaded every minute, according to Pichai, that is not an easy task.
“It’s our responsibility, I think, to make sure YouTube is a platform for freedom of expression, but it’s responsible and contributes positively to society,” he said. “But I want to acknowledge there is more work to be done. With our growth comes more responsibility. And we are committed to doing better as we invest more in this area.”
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