YouTube Faces Backlash As It Halts Removal Of False Claims About 2020 US Presidential Election

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/ YouTube faces backlash as it halts removal of false claims about 2020 US Presidential election

In this illustration photo a person reads YouTube blog's update on US election misinformation in Los Angeles, June 2, 2023. June 2, 2023, 
(Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP) (AFP)Premium
In this illustration photo a person reads YouTube blog's update on US election misinformation in Los Angeles, June 2, 2023. June 2, 2023, (Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP) (AFP)

In a recent announcement, YouTube revealed its decision to discontinue the removal of content that makes false claims about the 2020 US presidential election being riddled with "fraud, errors, or glitches." However, this move has swiftly drawn criticism from advocates fighting against misinformation.

YouTube, owned by Google, has made a significant change in its policy regarding false claims about the 2020 US presidential election. This shift comes after the platform's previous efforts, starting in December 2020, to combat misleading narratives, particularly propagated by former President Donald Trump, suggesting that his defeat to Joe Biden was the result of a "stolen" election.

In a blog post, YouTube justified its decision by emphasizing the importance of allowing open discussions on political ideas, even if they are controversial or built upon disproven assumptions. The platform believes that such debates are fundamental to a functioning democratic society, especially during an election season.

YouTube has implemented a revised policy that will halt the removal of content promoting false claims of widespread fraud, errors, or glitches in the 2020 and previous US presidential elections. This updated policy takes immediate effect and reflects the ongoing challenge faced by tech platforms in navigating the issue of combating misinformation while preserving freedom of speech in America's highly polarized political landscape.

YouTube acknowledged the drawbacks associated with combating misinformation, recognizing that after two years, tens of thousands of video removals, and one complete election cycle, it was necessary to reassess the impact of their policy in the evolving landscape. The video-sharing platform acknowledged that while removing such content did have some impact in curbing misinformation, it also had the unintended consequence of potentially stifling political discourse without significantly mitigating the risk of real-world harm or violence.

However, this response from YouTube has faced strong criticism from advocacy groups within the United States.

Nora Benavidez, a representative from the nonpartisan organization Free Press, strongly disagreed with YouTube's claim that removing false election content hampers political speech without effectively reducing real-world harms. Benavidez criticized the platform's decision to abruptly cease removing content that spreads hate and disinformation, posing a threat to democracy. She urged YouTube to reverse this decision promptly.

Despite the change in policy, YouTube reiterated that its existing rules against election misinformation remain unaffected. This includes the prohibition of content that deceives voters or encourages interference with democratic processes.

Julie Millican, the vice president of the left-leaning watchdog Media Matters, pointed out that YouTube was one of the few major social media platforms that had maintained a policy aimed at curbing misinformation about the 2020 election. However, she criticized the platform's recent decision, stating that it had opted for the convenient route of allowing individuals like Donald Trump and his supporters to freely spread falsehoods about the 2020 elections without facing any consequences.

(With inputs from AFP

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Updated: 03 Jun 2023, 12:46 PM IST

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