YouTube reverses ban on questioning 2020 US election
Video platform YouTube has reversed its controversial ban on questioning the validity of the 2020 and other US election results, acknowledging in a Friday blog post that the policy could silence legitimate political speech.
Effective immediately, the platform said, “content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US presidential elections” will no longer be removed.
Citing “today’s changed landscape,” the Alphabet subsidiary explained that “in the current environment, we find that while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm.”
YouTube explained its policies were aimed at two goals – “protecting our community, and providing a home for open discussion and debate” – and that those goals were not always aligned, admitting open debate was “core to a functioning democratic society.”
While the scrapped policy supposedly covered all past US elections, YouTube had appeared to focus its censorship on content questioning the 2020 results, ignoring or even promoting content that suggested the 2016 outcome was the result of Russian interference, especially if it came from establishment media outlets.
The platform acknowledged removing “tens of thousands” of videos due to the now-repealed ban on electoral fraud discussion. However, the blog post did not indicate if any of those videos would be restored or re-evaluated. While YouTube offers users whose content has been removed a chance to appeal the decision, critics claim the process is only for show and rarely if ever results in content being reinstated.
The platform also reminded users that the rest of its “election misinformation” policies still applied, meaning users could not post content designed to mislead voters about when, where, or how to vote or anything that might either discourage someone from voting or encourage someone to interfere with elections.
Freedom of speech has become a critical issue in the 2024 elections, with both Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and leading Republican challenger Ron DeSantis, as well as Democratic contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr., promising to take on Big Tech’s far-reaching censorship powers.