YouTube refuses to remove video that appears to violate its policies
YouTube said it won’t remove a video that claims Democrats are committing voter fraud against Republican ballots, despite admitting the video undermines confidence in elections.
The video, titled “Trump won” and posted by right-leaning media organization One American News Network on YouTube Wednesday morning, shows OAN anchor Christina Bobb saying “President Trump won four more years in the office last night.”
The video continues to make unsubstantiated claims of “rampant voter fraud” against Republican ballots while urging viewers to “take action” against Democrats. The video has more than 300,000 views.
Google-owned YouTube’s policies say it will remove content “encouraging others to interfere with democratic processes, such as obstructing or interrupting voting procedures.” Last month, the company tightened its policies to include removing targeted conspiracy theory-driven videos that may result in real-life violence.
YouTube said the video doesn’t violate its “Community Guidelines” but refused to respond to questions about why. The company confirmed it will discontinue ads on the video, however.
“We do not allow ads to run on content that undermines confidence in elections with demonstrably false information,” spokeswoman Christa Muldoon said in an emailed response to CNBC. “The election has not been called. Therefore, this is in scope of our demonstrably false policy and will be demonetized on YouTube.”
The confusing response from YouTube comes as social media companies face pressure to contain misinformation and avoid political bias — especially around the contentious 2020 U.S. elections. The company removed livestreamed channels on Election Day after a report found YouTube was showing misleading voter outcomes.
Early Wednesday morning, President Trump falsely claimed presidential victory even though millions of legitimate votes had yet to be counted and races in half a dozen swing states still had not been called.
Several hours later, One American News Network, which has 193,000 YouTube subscribers, posted the video. In it, an anchor says Democrat leaders are “tossing republican ballots” and “harvesting fake ballots.” It remained on YouTube for two hours and racked up more than 150,000 views before YouTube placed a label underneath the video that says “Results may not be final.”
“The Democrat party wants to hold Americans hostage and they’ll use violence to do it,” the anchor says in the video. “Democrats are boldly cheating because they think they have you fooled. Let them know, they aren’t fooling anyone.”
The anchor urges viewers to “take action” and “rise up” while the video displays phone numbers of Secretaries of State for viewers to call.
“While this video does not violate our Community Guidelines, all search results and videos about this election — including this video — surface an information panel noting that election results may not be final and linking to Google’s election results feature,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“Our systems are raising up authoritative content and we are continuing to remove content that misleads viewers about voting or encourages interference in democratic processes. We remain vigilant with regards to election-related content in this post-election period.”
After publication, YouTube spokesperson Andrea Faville explained that the company’s “Community Guidelines” refer to videos discouraging voting but not to videos that advocate interference after votes have been cast.
“Our Community Guidelines prohibit content misleading viewers about voting, for example content aiming to mislead voters about the time, place, means or eligibility requirements for voting, or false claims that could materially discourage voting,” Faville stated in an email to CNBC. “The content of this video doesn’t rise to that level, so it wasn’t removed.”