YouTube was the slowest major platform to ban misinformation during the 2020 US election, and nearly three years later the company will be ditching that policy altogether.
The company announced on Friday that it was reversing its election denial rules and allowing some previously banned false claims, effective immediately. axios initially reported the changes.
“In the current environment, we are finding that while removing this content curbs some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect of restricting political expression without materially reducing the risk of violence or other harm in the real world,” das wrote company in a blog post.
“With that in mind, and with the 2024 campaigns already in full swing, we will stop removing content that promotes false claims of widespread fraud, error, or breakdowns.”
YouTube still doesn’t allow some children to make false election-related claims, such as lying about the location of polling stations and other deliberate attempts to dissuade people from voting successfully.
“All of our election misinformation policies remain in effect, including those prohibiting content intended to mislead voters about time, place, means, or eligibility requirements; false claims that could materially discourage voting, including those disputing the validity of postal voting; and content that encourages others to interfere in democratic processes,” the company wrote.
There is certainly an argument that denying the valid results of a presidential election ultimately does more to discourage voting than these more pointed hypothetical scenarios. But allowing users to sow widespread distrust of the democratic process doesn’t seem to fit the company’s definition of “real-world harm.”
While enforcement has been a challenge, it’s an odd decision to announce on YouTube that the US election rejection season is on, especially with the 2024 election coming up. The company plans to provide more updates over the next few months on his election strategy for 2024. Hopefully, YouTube will then elaborate on its thinking or other planned precautions.