YouTube will now remove videos that make false claims that widespread fraud or error cost President Donald Trump the election, the company announced Wednesday in a blog post, and has purged 8,000 channels since September for spreading “harmful and misleading claims.”
The Google-owned video giant has taken heat in recent weeks for not removing or individually fact-checking content that boosted conspiracy theories about voter fraud, as other social media companies have. But now that the “safe harbor deadline” – the point by which state-level election challenges must be completed – has passed, YouTube said it will bar content uploaded Wednesday or after that suggests widespread fraud or errors cost Trump the election.
“For example, we will remove videos claiming that a presidential candidate won the election due to widespread software glitches or counting errors,” the company said in the blog post. “We will begin enforcing this policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come.”
This policy will apply to Trump himself, who insists daily without evidence that the election was rigged and that he actually won in a landslide. Democrat Joe Biden won the Nov. 3 vote, and the White House transition is underway.
“We enforce our policies consistently, regardless of speaker,” Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokeswoman, said in an email to The Post.
Videos on YouTube and other sites have become major sources of disinformation, often spreading election conspiracy theories and political point-scoring attempts faster than social media companies and fact-checkers can respond. Since the election, millions have watched and shared YouTube videos featuring debunked or unproven allegations involving mysterious wagons, ripped-up ballots and vote-deleting felt-tip pens.
In the blog post, “Supporting the 2020 U.S. Election,” YouTube said it wants to ensure “the line between what is removed and what is allowed is drawn in the right place.” In some cases, the company acknowledged, “that has meant allowing controversial views on the outcome or process of counting votes of a current election as election officials have worked to finalize counts.”
According to Transparency.tube, an independent research project, content promoting unfounded claims of widespread election fraud garnered about 137 million views between Nov. 3 and 10. This is significant given that a quarter of U.S. adults get their news from YouTube, a September study from the Pew Research Center found, and 73% of those viewers believe news gleaned from YouTube to be “largely accurate.”
The move is sure to incense Trump and many of his supporters, who continue to claim, without evidence, that the election was rigged and that their voices are being silenced by Silicon Valley giants. Last month, YouTube suspended One America News – which has repeatedly advanced claims that the election was stolen from Trump – for a week for violating its guidelines.
“I received hundreds of thousands of legal votes more, in all of the Swing States, than did my opponent,” Trump said in one of several tweets sent Wednesday that Twitter marked with a “disputed” label. “ALL Data taken after the vote says that it was impossible for me to lose, unless FIXED!”
YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit “spam, scams, or other manipulated media, coordinated influence operations, and any content that seeks to incite violence.” The platform has taken down more than 8,000 channels and thousands of videos since September that violated its disinformation policies, according to the blog post. More than 77% were removed before reaching 100 views.
The company said 88%, on average, of the election videos in top 10 search results were from “authoritative sources,” and that the most viewed channels and videos were produced by news outlets like NBC and CBS.
As part of a push to connect users with authoritative sources, YouTube has updated its election fact-check panels – which it says have been viewed more than 4.5 billion times – with links to the Office of the Federal Register noting that states have certified results as of December 8. It will keep the link to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s “Rumor Control” page for debunking election misinformation.
Just as YouTube announced its new measures, its parent, Google, told advertisers it would lift its political ad ban on Thursday, Axios reported. The company had instituted a blackout on political ads in recent weeks over misinformation concerns.