YouTube says it will ban misleading election-related content

By Davey Alba
The New York Times Company

BOSTON — YouTube said on Monday that it plans to remove misleading election-related content that can cause “serious risk of egregious harm,” the first time the video platform has comprehensively laid out how it will handle such political videos and viral falsehoods.

The Google-owned site, which previously had several different policies in place that addressed false or misleading content, rolled out the full plan on the day of the Iowa caucuses, when voters began to indicate their preferred Democratic presidential candidate.

“Over the last few years, we’ve increased our efforts to make YouTube a more reliable source for news and information, as well as an open platform for healthy political discourse,” Leslie Miller, the vice president of government affairs and public policy at YouTube, said in a blog post. She added that YouTube would be enforcing its policies “without regard to a video’s political viewpoint.”

The move is the latest attempt by tech companies to grapple with online disinformation, which is likely to ramp up before the November election. Last month, Facebook said it would remove videos that were altered by artificial intelligence in ways meant to mislead viewers, though it has also said it would allow political ads and would not police them for truthfulness. Twitter has banned political ads entirely and has said it will largely not muzzle political leaders’ tweets, though it may denote them differently.

In dealing with election-related disinformation, YouTube faces a formidable task. More than 500 hours of video a minute is uploaded to the site. The company has also grappled with concerns that its algorithms may push people toward radical and extremist views by showing them more of that type of content.

In its blog post Monday, YouTube said it would ban videos that gave users the wrong voting date or those that spread false information about participating in the census. It said it would also remove videos that spread lies about a political candidate’s citizenship status or eligibility for public office.

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