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YouTube adjusts line on political misinformation

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YouTube commits to remove misinformation ahead of Iowa caucus




YouTube is committing to remove misinformation ahead of the Iowa caucus on Monday, reiterating its pledge to take down videos aimed at misleading or confusing voters ahead of the pivotal first nominating contest of the 2020 election cycle.


The Google-owned video giant is bracing itself for an onslaught of viral falsehoods and manipulated video footage as the Democratic presidential candidates face off in the key battleground state.


All of the top social media platforms, including YouTube, have spent four years building up their defenses against election interference after Russian trolls successfully used social networks like Facebook and Twitter to sow discord online, bolstering then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign for the White House in 2016. 


"As the 2020 election season kicks into high gear in the United States, people will visit YouTube to learn about the candidates and watch the election season unfold," Leslie Miller, YouTube's vice president of government affairs and public policy, wrote in a blog post published Monday. 


"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," Miller wrote.

YouTube is specifying it won't allow videos that spread lies about where or when to vote, nor will it allow videos that promote misinformation about whether particular candidates are eligible to run. 


The company said it specifically won't allow videos that advance "claims that a candidate is not eligible to hold office based on false information about citizenship status requirements to hold office in that country" — a thinly-veiled reference to the "birther" conspiracy theory that dogged former President Obama's presidential campaign.


YouTube, which has faced criticism for pushing its users towards fringe conspiracy theories and sensationalistic content, noted that it is working to direct users towards reputable and accurate information. It will be lifting up facts about the political candidates throughout the election season, the company said, and it's working to direct users away from any content that could violate its community guidelines.


All of the social media platforms are on high alert on Monday as the 2020 presidential election begins in earnest, raising fresh concerns around how people will use their platforms to stoke anxieties and spread outright falsehoods in a sensitive election year. 


Since 2016, lawmakers and regulators alike have placed Big Tech under the microscope, blaming their powerful and far-reaching networks for intensifying divisions in a fractured country. And the companies are working overtime to prove they will react faster and defend the "public conversation" more efficiently as 2020 barrels ahead.



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