YouTube Will No Longer Remove US Election Fraud Content

Videos encouraging people to interfere with “democratic processes” are still banned

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Photo illustration by TheWrap (Getty Images)

YouTube will no longer going to remove content related to accusations of U.S. election fraud. The change is effective immediately, the platform said Friday.

YouTube initially started its sweeping removal effort of election fraud content in December 2020, when claims that Joe Biden was stealing the U.S. presidential election from Donald Trump were widely circulating throughout the web.

“Two years, tens of thousands of video removals, and one election cycle later, we recognized it was time to reevaluate the effects of this policy in today’s changed landscape,” reads YouTube’s announcement post. “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.”

Users are now free to post content that claims there was fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election or any elections before then, if they so choose. However, the site’s “election misinformation policies remain in place.” Specifically, YouTube noted that content encouraging others to “interfere with democratic processes” is still verboten.

It’s not immediately clear where the video-hosting site draws the line between content that interferes with democratic processes and content propagating the notion that U.S. democratic processes have been corrupted by fraud.

When asked for comment, a YouTube spokesperson directed TheWrap to the aforementioned blog post, not offering any clarification.

The company stated it will adjust its strategy as needed, so whether the new stance on fraud content will persist through the 2024 election remains to be seen.

Media Matters weighed in on YouTube’s policy adjustment, saying that the company has “made it clear that one attempted insurrection wasn’t enough.”

“YouTube’s announcement today that they will resume allowing bad actors to lie about the 2020 presidential election result comes as no surprise,” Julie Millican, Media Matters vice president, said. “YouTube was one of the last major social media platforms to keep in place a policy attempting to curb 2020 election misinformation. Now, it’s decided to take the easy way out by giving people like Donald Trump and his enablers free rein to continue to lie without consequence about the 2020 elections.” 

“YouTube and the other platforms that preceded it in weakening their election misinformation policies, like Facebook, have made it clear that one attempted insurrection wasn’t enough. They’re setting the stage for an encore.”

On a related note, the Supreme Court recently decided that sites such as Twitter are not liable when bad actors use social media to forward their agendas.