YouTube, the world’s largest video-sharing website, has announced that it will widen its policies to permit controversial political speech during the upcoming election cycle.
- On June 2, YouTube announced in a blog post that it will be scaling back on its policy to suppress “election misinformation” as the 2024 election season approaches.
- YouTube says that it has re-evaluated its policies and realized that curbing misinformation came at the expense of harming political speech and having little effect on reducing real-world issues in the process.
- The platform will continue to prioritize authoritative sources and punish sources that purposely mislead voters with claims that discourage eligible voters or misdirect them on how to vote. The platform will also continue suppressing hate speech, violence incitement, and harassment.
Why It’s Important
In December 2020, YouTube implemented a new policy that suppressed “election misinformation” in an effort to curb claims that the recent presidential election had been decided fraudulently. The initial policy resulted in tens of thousands of videos being removed from the platform.
From November 2020 to January 2021, the U.S. was rocked by claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen by Democrat ballot harvesting initiatives, miscounting tallying machines, and unsupervised mail-in voting. The claims—echoed by outgoing President Donald Trump—resulted, intentionally or not, in the January 6 Capital Hill riot, with thousands of Americans marching against the nation’s capital and believing that the election had been stolen.
Social media took a large portion of the blame for the day’s events, with right-leaning alternative apps like Parler accepting responsibility for the riot over claims that users organized through them. Parler was subsequently removed from Apple’s App Store. Later studies found that Facebook and YouTube allowed users to organize and spread information about the protests.
YouTube’s decision to back off its policies reflects a desire to provide “a home for open discussion and debate during the ongoing election season.” The decision has been met with some praise and criticism, with proponents of the policy arguing that YouTube is “setting the stage for an encore” of the January 6 riots.
“YouTube’s announcement today that they will resume allowing bad actors to lie about the 2020 presidential election result comes as no surprise. YouTube was one of the last major social media platforms to keep in place a policy attempting to curb 2020 election misinformation. Now, it’s decided to take the easy way out by giving people like Donald Trump and his enablers free rein to continue to lie without consequence about the 2020 elections,” Media Matters VP Julie Millican tells The Wrap.
As we previously reported, Fox News was forced to offer one of the largest out-of-court settlements in history to Dominion Voting Systems of $787 million in April after the network repeatedly pushed claims that the voting systems company had contributed to election fraud. Dominion argued that the network was engaged in malicious slander.