YouTube Must Censor ‘Misleading’ Election Videos, Senate Democrats Say

“These videos seek to undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the legitimacy of President-elect Biden’s incoming administration,” says open letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki

Four Senate Democrats are calling on YouTube to censor “false or misleading” videos related to the 2020 U.S. election. The lawmakers, in an open letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on Monday night, said the video giant needs to “immediately stop the spread of misinformation” before the Georgia Senate runoff elections in January, which will determine whether the U.S. Senate leans red or blue.

“We urge you to immediately remove all election outcome misinformation and take aggressive steps to implement prohibitions, as other social media companies have done, regarding outcomes in future elections,” the letter said.

A YouTube rep, when reached for comment, said the site’s rules allow users to share their opinions on the election outcome and how votes have been counted.

“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. Our panels linking to Google’s election results feature — which we display on our homepage, on videos and in searches — have collectively been shown billions of times,” the rep said.

The rep added: “The most popular videos about the election are from authoritative news organizations. On average 88% of the videos in top-10 results in the US come from authoritative sources when people search for election-related content. 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 letter was signed by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI). In their letter, the senators pointed to one YouTube video claiming voter fraud swung the election in Michigan, “despite any evidence of such fraud,” and were concerned it had more than five million views.

“These videos seek to undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the legitimacy of President-elect Biden’s incoming administration,” the letter added.

YouTube, the senators said, needs to immediately purge videos with “false” election information, although they did not outline what constitutes “false” information or who should determine it. The senators also asked YouTube to respond to a handful of questions, including:”What steps will YouTube take to ensure that the platform is free from content that suppresses voting, incites violence, or makes false claims concerning the casting of ballots surrounding the January 2021 Georgia run-off elections?”

The push for YouTube to remove more content comes after the Google-owned video site was less of a focus than Facebook and Twitter during the 2020 election cycle. Both Facebook and Twitter implemented several new measures leading up to the election that they claimed would help weed out misinformation, including adding warning labels to posts from President Trump and other politicians that the companies deemed questionable. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a temporary tweak to the platform’s algorithm after Election Day, aiming to highlight “authoritative” news outlets like CNN and The NYT over “hyperpartisan” outlets like Breitbart.