YouTube says taking down Georgia GOP candidate’s ‘deportation bus’ ad was ‘the wrong call’

In the video, taken down briefly Wednesday, state Sen. Michael Williams talks about his plan to "fill this bus with illegals."

Michael Williams (R), a state senator and candidate for Georgia governor, stands besides his "deportation bus" in a campaign ad YouTube briefly took down Wednesday for violating its policies against hate speech. CREDIT: Michael Williams for Governor 2018/YouTube
Michael Williams (R), a state senator and candidate for Georgia governor, stands besides his "deportation bus" in a campaign ad YouTube briefly took down Wednesday for violating its policies against hate speech. CREDIT: Michael Williams for Governor 2018/YouTube

YouTube briefly took down a Georgia gubernatorial candidate’s campaign ad Wednesday for violating its policy against hate speech, before putting it back up and calling the initial decision a mistake.

The ad opens with distorted dad rock and a steady cam shot of Republican primary candidate and state Sen. Michael Williams stepping out of his “deportation bus” — emblazoned with slogans like “Follow me to Mexico” and “Danger! Murderers, rapists, child molestors [sic], and other criminals on board.”

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“We’re going to implement my 287G deportation plan to fill this bus with illegals to send them back to where they came from,” Williams says while standing next to the bus, which he’s taking on a tour across the state. “We’re not just gonna track ’em and watch ’em roam around our state. We’re gonna’ put ’em on this bus and send ’em home.”

YouTube removed the ad Wednesday for violating its policy against hate speech, according to the Associated Press. By Wednesday evening, it was back online.

A spokesperson for Google, which owns YouTube, told ThinkProgress taking the ad down was “the wrong call.”

“With the massive volume of videos on our platform, sometimes we make the wrong call on content that is flagged by our community,” the spokesperson said. “When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring videos or channels that were mistakenly removed.”

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YouTube’s hate speech policy bans content whose “primary purpose” is to promote hatred or violence against a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.

“There is a fine line between what is and what is not considered to be hate speech,” the policy says. “For instance, it is generally okay to criticize a nation-state, but if the primary purpose of the content is to incite hatred against a group of people solely based on their ethnicity, or if the content promotes violence based on any of these core attributes, like religion, it violates our policy.”

Users can flag videos they believe violate this policy, which YouTube reviews before making a decision on whether or not to remove it, according to the policy.

YouTube banned several accounts associated with the so-called “alt-right,” a white nationalist movement, in March. A few weeks later, it almost — but not quite — banned right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones over videos claiming survivors of a school shooting Parkland, Florida, were actually paid “crisis actors” out to trample the Second Amendment.

For now, Williams’ campaign ads seem to be safe — not unlike President Donald Trump’s often inflammatory tweets, which Twitter has refused to take down because it would “hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”

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Williams isn’t alone. Immigration has become key in Georgia’s five-person Republican gubernatorial primary, as the Associated Press reported Wednesday, with candidates competing to see who can say the most politically incorrect thing about undocumented immigrants from Latin America on screen.

“I got a big truck — just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said  as he climbed into an F-350 in his own campaign ad. “Yep, I just said that.”

That kind of rhetoric worries Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, who noted that some of the state’s biggest industries are heavily dependent on labor from undocumented immigrants.

“Politicians are using immigrants as a scapegoat for appealing to racist feelings among their voter base and at the same time threatening to undermine Georgia’s economic vitality by promising policies that would drive out immigrants from our state,” he told the Associated Press.