In a major policy change, YouTube announced that it will not remove content that suggests fraud, errors or mistakes occurred in the 2020 US presidential election and other US elections.
The company confirmed this Friday this reversal of its electoral integrity policy.
In this article, we’re taking a deeper look at YouTube’s decision. What led to this point?
It’s not just YouTube, though. We’re seeing this delicate dance across the tech world. Platforms are trying to figure out how to allow people to express themselves without letting misinformation get out.
Look at this balancing act and how it’s playing out.
A shift towards freedom of expression?
YouTube first implemented its anti-election disinformation policy in December 2020, after several states certified the results of the 2020 elections.
The policy was aimed at preventing the spread of misinformation that could incite violence or cause harm in the real world.
However, the company is concerned that maintaining this policy could have the unintended effect of stifling political discourse.
Reflecting on the impact of the policy over the past two years, which has resulted in tens of thousands of videos being removed, YouTube states:
“Two years, tens of thousands of video removals and an election cycle later, we recognized it was time to reassess the effects of this policy in today’s changed landscape. With that in mind, and with the 2024 campaigns march, we will stop removing content that advances false claims that fraud, error, or widespread error occurred in the 2020 and other past United States presidential elections.”
In the coming months, YouTube promises more details about its approach to the 2024 election.
Other misinformation policies unchanged
While this change changes YouTube’s approach to election-related content, it does not affect other disinformation policies.
“The rest of our election misinformation policies remain in place, including disallowing content intended to mislead voters about the time, place, means or eligibility requirements for voting; false claims that could materially discourage voting, including those that dispute the validity of mail-in voting; and content that encourages others to interfere with democratic processes.”
The larger context: Balancing free speech and disinformation
This decision comes in a broader context where media companies and technology platforms are struggling with the balance between curbing misinformation and defending freedom of expression.
With this in mind, there are several implications for advertisers and content creators.
Implications for advertisers
Brand safety concerns: Advertisers may be concerned that their ads will appear alongside content that spreads misinformation about the election.
Increased scrutiny: With this change, advertisers may need to take a closer look at where their ads are placed.
Potential for boycotts: If ads for certain brands are repeatedly seen in videos spreading election misinformation, it could lead to consumer boycotts.
Implications for content creators
Monetization opportunities: This could open up new monetization opportunities for content creators who focus on political content, especially those who had been penalized under the old policy.
Increase in audience: If their content is no longer removed, individual creators may see an increase in viewing, leading to more ad revenue and more engagement.
Potential reactionOn the other hand, content creators could face backlash from viewers who disagree with misinformation or those who feel the platform should take a stronger stance against such content.
It is important to note that these are potential implications and may not be universally realized across the platform.
Impact will likely vary based on specific content, audience demographics, advertiser preferences, and other factors.
To sum up
YouTube’s decision shows the ongoing struggle to balance free speech and prevent misinformation.
If you are an advertiser on the platform, please remember to monitor where your ads are placed.
For content creators, this change could be a double-edged sword. While it may bring more advertising revenue to YouTube, there is a risk that viewers may perceive the ads as spreading misinformation.
As participants in the digital world, we should all strive for critical thinking and fact-checking when consuming content. The responsibility to curb disinformation does not lie solely with technology platforms, but is a collective task that we all share.
Featured image generated by the author via Midjourney.