- The Alphabet Workers Union on Thursday published a blistering open letter attacking YouTube executives for their “lackluster” response to Donald Trump following the siege on the US Capitol.
- The letter accused YouTube of fostering fascism on its platform and giving employees “token concessions” rather than addressing the problem.
- The union criticised YouTube for only taking down one video from Donald Trump, rather than banning his account outright.
- Do you work at Google? Got a tip? Contact this reporter at [email protected] or [email protected]
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Google’s new union has penned a searing open letter to YouTube executives, accusing the platform of fostering fascism and failing to act in the wake of the siege by pro-Trump rioters on the US Capitol.
The Alphabet Workers Union, which was officially formed on Monday of this week and comprises roughly 400 employees from Google’s parent company Alphabet, published the open letter on Thursday.
“We know that social media has emboldened the fascist movement growing in the United States and we are particularly cognizant that YouTube, an Alphabet product, has played a key role in this growing threat, which has received an insufficient response from YouTube executives,” said the letter.
“We warned our executives about this danger, only to be ignored or given token concessions, and the results have been suicides, mass murders, violence around the world, and now an attempted coup at the Capitol of the United States.”
The letter described YouTube’s specific response to the attack on the Capitol as “lackluster,” and picked up on its approach to Donald Trump.
“YouTube refuses to hold Donald Trump accountable to the platform’s own rules by choosing only to remove one video instead of removing him from the platform entirely,” the letter reads.
The video posted by Trump was also taken down by Twitter and Facebook, and included Trump spouting unsubstantiated claims about election fraud, as well as telling the Capitol mob members “We love you. You’re very special. Go home.” Facebook on Thursday suspended Trump’s account indefinitely after he posted the video.
The union’s letter also took issue with the fact that YouTube took the video down on the grounds that it broke its election integrity rules, but not its rules on inciting violence.
“By not citing the full gamut of his user violations, YouTube is avoiding the proactive action called for by both their workers and the broader public,” it said.
“YouTube must no longer be a tool of fascist recruitment and oppression. Anything less is to countenance deadly violence,” it added.
Google was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Insider.
YouTube has previously come under fire for hosting extremist content, and in particular for its recommendation algorithm, which some experts have argued drives users to more and more extremist content. In June 2019, YouTube said it would crack down on neo-Nazi and white supremacist videos. In January of that year, it also promised to do more to tackle “borderline” conspiracy theory content.
You can read the Alphabet Workers Union’s full letter here:
Yesterday, a mob of fascists, urged on by the sitting president of the United States, stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to prevent the certification of the results of the presidential election. Donald Trump then celebrated the insurrectionists in a video posted on social media, including on his YouTube channel, where he told armed fascists, “We love you, you’re very special.”
We, the members of Alphabet Workers Union, part of Communications Workers of America Local 1400, are outraged by this attempted coup. We know that social media has emboldened the fascist movement growing in the United States and we are particularly cognizant that YouTube, an Alphabet product, has played a key role in this growing threat, which has received an insufficient response by YouTube executives.
Workers at Alphabet have previously organized against the company’s continued refusal to take meaningful action to remove hate, harassment, discrimination, and radicalization from YouTube and other Alphabet-operated platforms, to no avail. We warned our executives about this danger, only to be ignored or given token concessions, and the results have been suicides, mass murders, violence around the world, and now an attempted coup at the Capitol of the United States.
Once again, YouTube’s response yesterday was lackluster, demonstrating a continued policy of selective and insufficient enforcement of its guidelines against the use of the platform to spread hatred and extremism. For example, YouTube refuses to hold Donald Trump accountable to the platform’s own rules by choosing only to remove one video instead of removing him from the platform entirely. Additionally, the platform only cited “election fraud” as the reason for removing yesterday’s video, even as he clearly celebrates the individuals responsible for the violent coup attempt. By not citing the full gamut of his user violations, YouTube is avoiding the proactive action called for by both their workers and the broader public. YouTube will continue to function as a vector for the growth of fascist movements if it persists in prioritizing advertisers while exposing the public.
AWU’s mission states that “we are responsible for the technology that we bring into the world, and recognize that its implications reach far beyond Alphabet.” The battle against fascism will require constant vigilance on many fronts, and AWU stands in solidarity with all workers fighting for justice and liberation, in the workplace and the world. We must begin with our own company.
YouTube must no longer be a tool of fascist recruitment and oppression. Anything less is to countenance deadly violence: from Gamergate to Charlottesville, from Christchurch to Washington, D.C., from Jair Bolsonaro to Donald Trump. Alphabet, in failing to act, has done tremendous damage: to the thousands of victims of hate and to the world. Every day without change is complicity. We remain committed to building change in our workplace for the betterment of all, while continuing to build power for working people everywhere.
Alphabet Workers Union stands ready to meet with Alphabet to find ways to integrate the perspectives of all Alphabet workers to fight against the problems within our company that have contributed to where we are today.