Google has announced that they will officially be reversing their Elections Misinformation Policy, thus allowing users to post content to YouTube questioning the results of any given political election.
On June 2nd, the YouTube Team offered “an update on our approach to US election misinformation,” therein declaring that they would no longer be censoring dissenting political opinions, empirically verifiable or otherwise.
“The ability to openly debate political ideas, even those that are controversial or based on disproven assumptions, is core to a functioning democratic society — especially in the midst of election season,” the team declared. “We are ensuring that when people come to YouTube looking for news and information about elections, they see content from authoritative sources prominently in search and recommendations.”
“For example, following the 2020 US election, we found that videos from authoritative sources like news outlets represented the most viewed and most recommended election videos on YouTube,” they elaborated, before explaining that some of the former policy’s stipulations would remain untouched.
This includes active monitoring of content that misleads voters “about the time, place, means, or eligibility requirements for voting,” as well as “false claims that could materially discourage voting, including those disputing the validity of voting by mail,” and “content that encourages others to interfere with democratic processes.”
“We know citizens take the integrity of the democratic process incredibly seriously, and so do we,” the team declared. “We’ll remain vigilant as the election unfolds, as we did in 2020, and again in 2022.”
Drawing their announcement to a close, the YouTube team further revealed that they would “have an elections-focused team, including members of our Intelligence Desk, Trust & Safety and product teams, monitoring real-time developments and making adjustments to our strategy as needed.”
Implemented in December of 2020 following that year’s U.S. Presidential election, the policy was enacted in an effort to prevent “misleading or deceptive content with serious risk of egregious harm” from appearing on the video sharing platform.
This policy would also go on to be applied to the 2021 German federal election and 2022 Brazilian Presidential elections, as well as retroactively to the Presidential elections held by the latter nation in 2014 and 2018.
Under this policy, users were prohibited from questioning such topics as voter suppression, candidate eligibility, incitement to interfere with democratic processes, distribution of hacked materials, and an election’s general integrity, with such content being labeled ‘misleading’ or ‘deceptive’.
The video-sharing social media platform also encouraged users to report channels that were uploading content in violation of these policies.
The now-outdated guidelines also included bans on “videos that contain hacked info about a political candidate shared with the intent to interfere in an election,” “content advancing false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in certain past elections to determine heads of government”, and “claims that a candidate or sitting government official is not eligible to hold office based on false info about the age required to hold office in that country/region.”
At the time of its implementation, YouTube was not the only social media platform that had taken measures to censor information deemed misleading.
For example,Bloomberg praised Twitter censoring President Trump‘s tweet accusing Democrats of stealing the election, while CNN was also quick to commend both Facebook and the aforementioned social media platform’s for removing the 45th President from their services, both of whom shamelessly took down a recording of a 46-minute speech given by the now-former Head of State regarding election fraud.
YouTube’s efforts to censor “misinformation” by silencing President Trump was also praised by Forbes, who noted that as of November 16, 2020, videos discussing election fraud had been viewed a total of 680 million times.
VOX even criticised the video-sharing social media platform for allowing content that questioned the integrity of the electoral process, applauding YouTube’s decision to demonetise and suspend One America News Network’s channel for violating Google’s “Spam, deceptive practices, & scams policies” guideline by promoting election skepticism and spreading “harmful misinformation associated with COVID-19.”