YouTube announced Wednesday that it will begin the process of removing content from its platform that alleges widespread voter fraud helped to influence the outcome of the highly contested US presidential election.
The company explained in a blog post that the changes would be effective immediately, and that it would push the measures into full gear “in the weeks to come.” The new policy isn’t likely to affect videos that were posted in the weeks prior to its enactment.
“We will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election,” reads the update. “For example, we will remove videos claiming that a presidential candidate won the election due to widespread software glitches or counting errors.”
“As always, news coverage and commentary on these issues can remain on our site if there’s sufficient education, documentary, scientific or artistic context,” the notice adds.
YouTube indicated that it would begin to impose the new policy since the national safe harbor deadline for states to wrap up any election-related disputes, such as recounts and audits, was on Tuesday. Additionally, the platform explained the decision was made because enough US states have certified their election results to determine a winner.
“Our main goal going into the election season was to make sure we’re connecting people with authoritative information, while also limiting the reach of misinformation and removing harmful content,” the post states.
Although YouTube has stated it terminated over 8,000 channels and “thousands of harmful and misleading election-related videos,” the company has largely remained under fire by consumers for taking a much more hands-off approach when allowing election misinformation content to thrive on its platform.
Rather than removing videos outright, YouTube in recent months has instead flagged election content with labels that direct viewers to what the company refers to as “authoritative news sources,” such as CBS News or ABC News, among other mainstream media outlets.
In late November, a group of Democratic congressional lawmakers addressed a letter to Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s chief executive officer, and called on the company to take a more hard-line stance and remove all election misinformation footage.
“These videos seek to undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the legitimacy of President-elect Biden’s incoming administration,” the letter reads. “Moreover, because the current president has not committed to a peaceful transition of power, misinformation and manipulated media content on your platform may fuel civil unrest.”
However, while Democrats are likely to praise YouTube’s new path, the move probably won't give a comforting feeling to Republicans. In fact, Trump ally US Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) voiced his dissatisfaction via Twitter, writing that YouTube was infringing on users’ free speech.
“If you have concerns about election integrity, you must sit down and shut up,” Hawley tweeted before echoing earlier remarks by Trump to revoke Section 230, a decades-old piece of law that shields online companies from being held liable for content posted by their users.
Having refused to concede the US election, Trump has vowed to continue with his legal challenges and most recently confirmed that he will join Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to reverse the election results through the US Supreme Court.
Although the nation’s highest court has not indicated whether it will take the case, critics have written the move off as a publicity stunt.
YouTube’s announcement comes as its parent company Google said it would begin lifting on Thursday its temporary pause on political advertising. Google had issued the momentary halt in an effort to prevent potential exploitation or misinformation through advertising, as the company had expected election results would be delayed.