YouTube reverses ban on questioning 2020 US election

Lazy eyes listen


YouTube has reversed its controversial prohibition on disputing the legitimacy of 2020 and other US election results, admitting in a blog post on Friday that the policy might suppress legitimate political expression.

The platform stated that “content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US presidential elections” will be removed immediately.

The Alphabet subsidiary explained, citing “today’s changed landscape,” that “in the current environment, we find that while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm.”

YouTube noted that its regulations were targeted at two aims – “protecting our community, and providing a home for open discussion and debate” – and that those goals were not always aligned, conceding that open debate was “core to a functioning democratic society.”

While the policy that was scrapped ostensibly covered all previous US elections, YouTube appeared to focus its censorship on content questioning the 2020 results, ignoring or even promoting content that suggested the 2016 outcome was the result of Russian interference, particularly if it came from establishment media outlets.

The site acknowledged eliminating “tens of thousands” of videos as a result of the now-rescinded ban on discussing electoral fraud. However, the blog post made no mention of whether any of the videos would be restored or re-evaluated. While YouTube allows users whose video has been removed to appeal the decision, some argue the procedure is merely for show and rarely, if ever, results in the reinstatement of content.

The platform also reminded users that the rest of its “election misinformation” policies remained in effect, which meant that they could not post content intended to mislead voters about when, where, or how to vote, or anything else that might discourage someone from voting or encourage someone to interfere with elections.

Freedom of expression has emerged as a significant topic in the 2024 elections, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and leading Republican rival Ron DeSantis, as well as Democratic contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr., threatening to oppose Big Tech’s broad censorship powers.