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Senate Democrats call on YouTube to pull videos with election lies

Four senators sent a letter to YouTube expressing 'deep concern' over misinformation.
Jessica Conditt, @JessConditt
November 24, 2020
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U.S. Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speaks during the third day of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 14, 2020.  Demetrius Freeman/Pool via REUTERS
POOL New / reuters

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki received a letter on Tuesday from four Democratic senators expressing “deep concern” over the spread of election misinformation on Google’s video platform. In the letter, senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Gary Peters of Michigan and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota ask YouTube to commit to removing content with false or misleading information about the 2020 US presidential election and future political races, including the coming, pivotal Senate runoffs in Georgia.

“We urge you to immediately remove all election outcome misinformation and take aggressive steps to implement prohibitions, as other social media companies have done, regarding outcomes in future elections,” the letter reads.

The senators point to one example of a YouTube video that falsely claims there’s evidence of voter fraud in Michigan, noting that it has more than 5 million views.

Misinformation isn’t a new problem for YouTube, but the US election has thrown this issue into stark relief. The platform rolled out a few policies earlier this year designed to curtail election lies, pledging to remove videos encouraging voting interference and those based on information surfaced in hacks on the democratic process. It also added panels underneath election-related videos offering “authoritative information” on the situation.

Still, YouTube has allowed videos challenging the outcome of the presidential election to remain live, and fringe, right-wing channels that spread much of this misinformation are experiencing a period of growth on the platform.

The Democratic senators have outlined five questions for YouTube and they’re requesting a response by December 8th. The prompts are as follows, as listed in the letter:

  1. Will YouTube commit to removing content containing false or misleading information as to the outcome of the 2020 elections and the upcoming elections in Georgia? If not, why?

  2. What steps has YouTube implemented since announcing its prohibition on voter suppression content?

  3. What steps will YouTube take to ensure that the platform is free from content that suppresses voting, incites violence, or makes false claims concerning the casting of ballots surrounding the January 2021 Georgia run-off elections?

  4. Please provide our offices with any YouTube research concerning the platform’s amplification of groups or organizations using YouTube to spread election misinformation.

  5. How much in ad revenue did YouTube receive from videos showing election result misinformation?

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