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YouTube to remove content alleging election fraud changed presidential outcome

YouTube's Cherry Avenue offices in San Bruno, Calif., (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 09, 2020

YouTube announced it would start removing content alleging widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, adding that such content “misleads people.”

On Wednesday, the social media giant updated their approach to “supporting the integrity of the 2020 presidential election” citing “safe harbor,” a deadline for states to certify their individual results of the presidential election according to U.S. law.

“Yesterday as the safe harbor deadline for the U.S. Presidential election and enough states have certified their election results to determine a President-elect,” YouTube’s official blog stated. “Given that, we will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.”

YouTube went on to provide specific examples of content that would be taken down, including videos claiming that a candidate won the election as a result of widespread software glitches or counting mistakes.

The platform said it will enforcing the policy Wednesday and “will ramp up in the weeks to come,” noting that “news coverage and commentary on these issues can remain on our site if there’s sufficient education, documentary, scientific or artistic context.”

Reuters reported that online platforms have been pressured to police misinformation regarding the election, with YouTube being seen as taking a back seat approach unlike Facebook and Twitter, which began labeling content as misinformation.

The announcement also reiterated that YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit spam, scams, or other manipulated media, coordinated influence operations, and any content inciting violence.

“Since September, we’ve terminated over 8000 channels and thousands of harmful and misleading elections-related videos for violating our existing policies,” the blog post stated. “Over 77 percent of those removed videos were taken down before they had 100 views.”

Since Election Day, fact-check information panels were triggered more than 200,000 times on election-related videos. YouTube said it will “make sure the line between what is removed and what is allowed is drawn in the right place.”

“Starting today, we will update this information panel, linking to the “2020 Electoral College Results” page from the Office of the Federal Register, noting that as of December 8, states have certified Presidential election results, with Joe Biden as the President-elect. It will also continue to include a link to [Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency], explaining that states certify results after ensuring ballots are properly counted and correcting irregularities and errors.”

On Tuesday, the State of Texas filed lawsuits against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuits allege the four states ignored federal and state election laws and enacted what he described as “unconstitutional” last-minute changes to their election rules, which he argues skewed the 2020 election results.