YouTube is reversing its policies on election misinformation. Starting today, YouTube will stop removing content that “advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections,” according to a blog post published on Friday.
YouTube says that the “ability to openly debate political ideas, even those that are controversial or based on disproven assumptions, is core to a functioning democratic society — especially in the midst of election season.” YouTube first introduced its election misinformation policy in December 2020, which barred users from posting content that spread false claims about the integrity of US elections. The platform says it has removed “thousands” of videos since implementing the policy.
“In the current environment, we find that while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect of curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm,” YouTube states. “As with any update to our policies, we carefully deliberated this change.”
Although YouTube pushed to curtail the spread of misinformation at the time of the 2020 US presidential election, its methods didn’t always prove that effective. While a 2020 study found that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm frequently showed videos that questioned the results of the election to skeptical users, the platform faced criticism for leaving up videos with false election claims. YouTube also lifted the restrictions it put on Donald Trump’s account earlier this year.
Despite the policy reversal, YouTube says it will continue to enforce rules that prevent users from discouraging others from participating in an election. It will also take action against content that aims to mislead users about the time, place, or requirements for voting as well as content that disputes the validity of mail-in voting. Additionally, YouTube says it still prominently surfaces content from “authoritative sources” in search results and recommendations.