Monday, April 19

Senators ask YouTube to remove election misinformation

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A group of U.S. Senate Democrats is calling on YouTube to take down videos with “false and misleading” information about the election, a sign of political condemnation usually reserved for social networks Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc.

In the letter to Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki sent late Monday, the senators wrote that they have “deep concern” over election misinformation on the site, and asked YouTube to specify its approach to political videos about the upcoming runoff elections for two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia.

“These videos seek to undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the legitimacy of President-elect Biden’s incoming administration,” Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Gary Peters of Michigan 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.”

Hours of footage on YouTube from right-wing news outlets and solo broadcasters have appeared in recent weeks, questioning the election results and pushing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, has kept those clips up, but said it often makes it harder for viewers to find them. The company added information labels beneath videos about the election, though critics have said such fact-check efforts aren’t as robust as those from Twitter.

The senators also asked YouTube to share how much advertising revenue it has earned from videos showing election misinformation.

YouTube prohibits videos that incite violence, but has previously said that it allows clips “expressing views” on the outcome of the election to remain on the site. Two weeks ago, the company said on Twitter that 88% of videos shown in search results about the election came from its list of “authoritative” publishers like CNN and Fox News.

“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,” Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokeswoman, said in a statement. “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.”

The senators also asked YouTube to share how much advertising revenue it has earned from videos showing election misinformation.

Senate Republicans recently had the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook testify about their handling of the election. Google wasn’t invited.