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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

YouTube announced Thursday that it is expanding its hate and harassment policies to prohibit content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories, like QAnon, that have been used to justify real-world violence.

Why it matters: It is the latest tech giant to crack down on QAnon content, which has seen record online interest in 2020.

Catch up quick: QAnon is a sprawling, far-right conspiracy theory that falsely alleges a secret cabal of sex traffickers and pedophiles is waging a war against President Trump from inside the government.

  • Trump has previously praised the movement, which the FBI has deemed a potential domestic terrorist threat, saying that he understands its supporters "like me very much" and that they "love America."

The state of play: YouTube said that the policy applies to content that threatens or harasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in harmful conspiracy theories, like QAnon or Pizzagate.

  • The tech giant added that news coverage on these issues or content discussing them that doesn't target individuals or protected groups — veterans, people with disabilities, etc. — may stay up.

Between the lines: YouTube also said that its efforts to refine its policies over the past two years have helped to curb QAnon-linked content.

  • It said the steps it introduced nearly two years ago to limit the reach of harmful misinformation have resulted in an 80% drop in views of QAnon content via its search and discovery systems.
  • The company noted it has removed tens of thousands of QAnon videos and hundreds of channels to date, focusing on those that explicitly threaten violence or "deny the existence of major violent events."

The big picture: Tech platforms have been caught flat-footed trying to manage the spread of conspiracy-linked content on their platforms because the content often does not violate existing hate speech or harassment policies.

  • In the wake of calls for violence around the election, Big Tech is trying to get ahead of the broader harm that conspiracy content can have on society.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 21, 2021 - Technology

Facebook refers Trump ban to independent Oversight Board for review

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has accepted a referral from the platform to review its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Why it matters: While Trump critics largely praised the company's decision to remove the then-president's account for potential incitement of violence, many world leaders and free speech advocates pushed back on the decision, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for free speech moving forward.

Scoop: Stephanie Murphy announcing challenge to Marco Rubio

Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is planning to announce a campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in early June, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Murphy is a proven fundraiser. Jumping in now would give her an early start to build her case for the Democratic nomination and potentially force Rubio and allied GOP groups to spend heavily to retain a seat in a state that’s trending Republican.

Inside the GOP's infrastructure strategy

Sen. Roger Wicker. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top Republican senators are hoping the White House will make some sort of counteroffer to their infrastructure proposal when they meet with President Biden on Thursday, lawmakers and their aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is a sign of how serious the negotiations are, they say. In advance of the meeting, some of the senators are already publicly signaling the areas in which they have flexibility.