A YouTube network was spreading election disinformation for two months

This is despite YouTube's promises to crack down on allegations.

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LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 03: Election officials and voters stand near an electronic ballot booth in Fairdale High School November 3, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky.  After a record-breaking early voting turnout, Americans head to the polls on the last day to cast their vote for incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
Jon Cherry/Getty Images

YouTube promised it would crack down on US election disinformation in early December, but it appear to have missed a large target. BuzzFeed News has learned that a network of YouTube channels linked to the far-right media outlet Epoch Times launched after the November 3rd vote and has been spreading false claims about fraud, the Capitol Hill riot and other related subjects without facing repercussions until now.

Only one of the channels acknowledges its ties to Epoch Times. The channels have racked up significant audiences, too. Combined, they have over 1.1 million subscribers and tens of millions of total views.

YouTube policy communications lead Farshad Shadloo said the site removed “several” videos from the channels after BuzzFeed got in touch. Shadloo also defended the company’s record, saying YouTube had pulled “thousands” of election misinformation videos.

The internet video giant has further clamped down on bogus election claims in the wake of the Capitol incursion, vowing to immediately give channels strikes (and thus temporary or even permanent bans) if they post new misinformation videos.

However, the discovery suggests YouTube had at least some holes in its process. A major channel network kept spreading false claims for two months — that’s a lot of potential damage, especially from operators keeping their true origins a secret. While it can be difficult to completely thwart disinformation, it’s clear there’s room to improve.

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