Democratic senators urge YouTube to remove election misinformation videos.

Technology|Democratic senators urge YouTube to remove election misinformation videos.

Credit…Pool photos by Greg Nash; Samuel Corum; Tom Williams; Jonathan Ernst

A group of Democratic senators urged YouTube to reverse its policy of allowing videos containing election outcome misinformation and pushed the company to adopt more aggressive steps to curb the spread of false content and manipulated media ahead of critical runoff elections for Georgia’s two Senate seats in January.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s chief executive, four Democratic senators — Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Gary Peters of Michigan and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — said they had “deep concern with the proliferation of misinformation” on the platform. The letter pointed to how one YouTube video with the baseless claim of voter fraud in Michigan had five million views.

“These videos seek to undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the legitimacy of President-elect Biden’s incoming administration,” the senators wrote. “Moreover, because the current president has not committed to a peaceful transition of power, misinformation and manipulated media content on your platform may fuel civil unrest.”

YouTube, which is owned by Google, has come under criticism for allowing videos spreading false claims of widespread election fraud under a policy that permits videos that comment on the outcome of an election.

“Like other companies, we allow discussions of this election’s results and the process of counting votes, and are continuing to closely monitor new developments,” Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Our teams are working around the clock to quickly remove content that violates our policies and ensure that we are connecting people with authoritative information about elections.”

YouTube said it had surfaced videos from what it deemed to be authoritative news sources in search results and recommendations, while affixing a label on videos discussing election results stating that The Associated Press has called the election for Joseph R. Biden Jr. with a link to a results page on Google. Despite those efforts, YouTube channels spreading false claims about the election are gaining share compared with the platform’s authoritative sources.

The senators expressed concern about the upcoming runoff elections for the two Georgia Senate seats, because those races will garner “significant national interest.” In a series of questions to Ms. Wojcicki, the senators asked if YouTube would commit to removing false or misleading information about the 2020 election and the Georgia races. They asked the company to respond by Dec. 8.

November 24, 2020
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