YouTube changes misinformation policy to allow videos falsely claiming fraud in the 2020 US election

The company said it ‘carefully deliberated’ the reversal without explaining further.


In a Friday afternoon news dump, YouTube inexplicably announced today that 2020 election denialism is a-okay. The company says it “carefully deliberated this change” without offering any specifics on its reasons for the about-face. YouTube initially banned content disputing the results of the 2020 election in December of that year.

In a feeble attempt to explain its decision (first reported by Axios), YouTube wrote that it “recognized it was time to reevaluate the effects of this policy in today's changed landscape. In the current environment, we find that while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect of curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm. With that in mind, and with 2024 campaigns well underway, we will stop removing content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections.”

Various studies have shown misinformation and disinformation to be harmful in a variety of ways. They can lure people into a false-reality bubble or leave people too confused to know what is and isn’t real; that type of gaslighting is nearly as beneficial to authoritarian movements as drawing in rabid supporters.

The change comes as 2024 Republican front-runner Donald Trump and others continue to spread false claims about the results of the 2020 election. In addition to misleading voters, bogus statements about election integrity can also lead to the adoption of laws making it harder for people to vote: essentially voter-suppression legislation passed under the guise of “election security.”

If YouTube found some data that somehow reveals the dissemination of election denialism isn’t harmful after all, it would seem appropriate for the company to reveal that. But short of that, all we have is YouTube’s claim that it “carefully deliberated” this move.