As part of a significant policy change, YouTube announced it will not remove content suggesting fraud, error, or glitches in the 2020 US presidential election and other US elections.
The company confirmed this reversal of its election integrity policy on Friday.
In this article, we take a closer look at YouTube’s decision. What brought you to this point?
However, it’s not just YouTube. We see this delicate dance all over the tech world. Platforms are trying to figure out how to empower people to express themselves without misinformation circulating.
Check out this balancing act and how it works.
A shift towards freedom of expression?
YouTube first implemented its policy against election misinformation in December 2020 after several states confirmed the 2020 election results.
The policy aimed to prevent the spread of misinformation that could incite violence or cause real harm.
However, the company fears that keeping this policy in place could have the unintended effect of stifling political expression.
In light of the policy’s impact over the past two years, which has resulted in the removal of tens of thousands of videos, YouTube notes:
“Two years, tens of thousands of video removals, and an election cycle later, we realized it was time to reassess the impact of these policies in today’s changing landscape. With that in mind, and with the 2024 campaigns already in full swing, we will stop removing content that promotes false claims of widespread scams, bugs, or glitches in the 2020 US Presidential election and other past US Presidential elections may be.”
In the coming months, YouTube promises more details on its handling of the 2024 election.
Other misinformation policies remain unchanged
While this change changes YouTube’s approach to election-related content, it does not impact other misinformation policies.
“The remainder of our election misinformation policies remain in place, 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 get involved in democratic processes.”
The Bigger Context: Balancing Free Speech and Misinformation
This decision comes in a broader context, with media companies and technology platforms struggling to balance misinformation and freedom of expression.
With this in mind, there are several implications for advertisers and content creators.
Implications for Advertisers
- Concerns about brand safety: Advertisers may be concerned that their ads will appear alongside content that promotes misinformation about elections.
- Increased control: This change may require advertisers to be more careful about where their ads are placed.
- Potential for boycotts: If certain brands’ ads are repeatedly featured in videos that spread misinformation about elections, it could lead to consumer boycotts.
Implications for Content Creators
- monetization opportunities: This could open up new monetization opportunities for content creators focused on political content, especially those previously penalized under the old policy.
- Increased viewership: When their content stops being removed, certain creators may see an increase in viewership, resulting in higher ad revenue and engagement.
- Possible backlash: On the other hand, content creators might face backlash from viewers who disagree with the misinformation or think that the platform should take stronger action against such content.
It is important to note that these are potential impacts and may not be implemented across the platform.
Impact will likely vary based on specific content, audience demographics, advertising preferences, and other factors.
YouTube’s decision highlights the ongoing struggle to strike a balance between freedom of expression and preventing misinformation.
If you are an advertiser on the platform, be mindful of where your ads are placed.
For content creators, this change could be a double-edged sword. While it may generate more advertising revenue for YouTube, viewers risk seeing the ads as spreading misinformation.
As participants in the digital world, we should all strive for critical thinking and fact-checking when consuming content. Responsibility for curbing misinformation does not lie solely with technology platforms – it is a collective responsibility that we all share.
Featured image created by the author using Midjourney.