YouTube, on June 2, reversed certain parts of its election misinformation policy. Specifically, the platform will stop removing any content that “advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections,” the company informed in its blog post.
“The ability to openly debate political ideas, even those that are controversial or based on disproven assumptions, is core to a functioning democratic society–especially in the midst of election season,” the company reasoned. “In the current environment, we find that while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect of curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm,” it added.
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YouTube introduced this particular election misinformation policy in December 2020, prohibiting users from posting content that spread false claims about the integrity of US elections, but its effectiveness has been questioned.
The policy reversal could act as a double-edged sword: India is currently rethinking safe harbor protections afforded to intermediaries. With YouTube deliberately deciding not to act on misleading content, the Indian government can ask why should they be given safe harbor. The government might also use the very fact that YouTube has gone back and forth with this policy to explain that they don’t deserve safe harbor because of such decision-making power on what third-party content stays and what doesn’t stay on their platform.
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