YouTube’s CEO said she wants free speech on her platform. The only problem is that she qualified it.
“We want to enable people to express their points of view and enable as much free speech as we possibly can have.” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said during an interview Sept. 1 that her censorship-heavy platform actually wants more free speech and stands up to pro-censorship governments. Wojcicki then justified YouTube’s censorship almost immediately.
Wojcicki’s comments come at a time that several U.S. government officials have called on platforms to censor more content, and amid revelations that Facebook censored the Hunter Biden laptop story at the FBI’s request.
Indonesian journalist Najwa Shihab interviewed Wojcicki recently and asked the YouTube CEO about her platform’s attitude toward governments’ restrictions of free speech online. Shihab called governments’ suppression of voices online a “worrying trend” around the world, which Wojcicki agreed to.
“In general, we want to enable political speech,” Wojcicki said. “So, um, like, when we do get requests that would involve suppression of political speech, that’s a place where, um, we’re very, um, hesitant or resistant to removing it.”
Wojcicki said “civil unrest” is one of a few exceptions where her platform could move to constrict speech. “We want to enable people to express their points of view and enable as much free speech as we possibly can have.”
Shihab asked if YouTube says “no” to some government requests. YouTube adheres to laws but actually stands up to pro-censorship dictatorships, Wojcicki claimed. “If you, for example, have a non-democratically elected government and they’re asking us to remove content that would be suppressing free speech of people who are being persecuted in some way,” YouTube is more likely to keep the content up, Wojcicki stated.
Shihab challenged Wojcicki’s commitment to free speech by asking Wojcicki if she herself believes in censorship. Shihab even indicated that decreasing censorship could help fight so-called “misinformation” more than censorship could. Censorship can be “counterproductive,” Shihab suggested.
“There are lines that we draw,” Wojcicki said. She rambled that “content that is seen as undesirable or not supporting society or not being responsible” could motivate YouTube’s “advertising community” to push back.
Wojcicki concluded that YouTube operates “very differently than, say, the internet as a whole where people can go and post their information.”
YouTube has a history of pro-censorship policies. YouTube Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy Leslie Miller testified at an October 2021 hearing that the Google-owned platform had removed over 1 million videos with alleged “COVID misinfo,” including over 130,000 videos on “Covid vaccine misinfo.” Wojcicki also touted the platform’s censorship at a World Economic Forum meeting in May.
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