Feb 3, 2020 - Technology

YouTube adjusts line on political misinformation

Photo of a silhouetted person with a smartphone in hand in front of a YouTube logo

Photo: Carsten Rehder/picture alliance via Getty Images

YouTube will bar videos that lie about the mechanics of an election, the company announced in a blog post Monday, but indicated it remains reluctant to crack down more broadly on deceptive political speech, as some critics have demanded.

Why it matters: YouTube's content policies — which are separate from the advertising policies Google outlined in the fall — do not ban political falsehoods at a time when tech platforms are under fire to limit misinformation about candidates and elections.

Driving the news: In new explanations refining its stance, YouTube clarified how its deceptive practices policy applies to election-related content, including deepfakes.

  • YouTube will remove videos that advance "false claims related to the technical eligibility requirements" of current candidates and officeholders. YouTube offers as an example a claim that a candidate isn't eligible for office because of false information about citizenship status requirements.
  • The company also said it would remove content that has been manipulated in a way that misleads users and may pose a risk of "egregious harm." That includes the altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that was slowed to make her appear as if she was drunkenly slurring her speech.

YouTube's efforts also include giving "authoritative voices," including news sources, higher ranking in search and "watch next" recommendations to combat political and election misinformation.

  • For the 2018 midterm elections, YouTube included information panels about candidates in response to search queries from users, and intends to have a similar feature for 2020 candidates in the coming months.

The big picture: Critics argue that YouTube's algorithms promote extreme points of view and conspiracy theories. They've long charged the service with promoting hate speech and allowing its video recommendations to become an engine of radicalization.

What's next: YouTube notes that the overview of its current practices will not be the end of its efforts on election-related content.

  • "YouTube remains committed to maintaining the balance of openness and responsibility, before, during and after the 2020 U.S. election," Leslie Miller, vice president of YouTube government affairs and public policy, wrote in the blog.

In a separate blog post, Google pulls together its efforts to help campaigns effectively use its platforms, its work on tracking abuse and threats, and how it will help voters.

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