Senate Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation

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Angela Lang/CNET

A group of Democratic senators has demanded that misinformation about the election be taken down from YouTube, the most popular video platform in the world. 

In a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, the lawmakers expressed concern over the impact of false news that seeks to delegitimize the victory of President-elect Joe Biden. The senators also said they’re worried about the effect that misinformation could have on two January runoff elections in Georgia, which will decide which party controls the Senate.

“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,” says the letter, sent late Monday. It was signed by Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Gary Peters of Michigan and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

In response to the letter, YouTube, which is owned by Google, said the most-popular election videos on the site have come from authoritative news outlets.

“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,” YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said in a statement. “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 comes weeks after the contentious contest on Nov. 3, which dragged on as states continued to count mail-in ballots. In the aftermath of the vote, as President Donald Trump has refused to concede, YouTube has been criticized for not doing enough to curb the spread of misinformation. 

For example, in the days after the election, YouTube refused to take down videos by One America News, a far-right news organization. The clips falsely declared victory for Trump and baselessly accused Democrats of rigging the contest. YouTube cut off the videos from earning revenue and labeled them with the warning, “Results may not be final,” which also appeared with all election-related videos and search results. 

In Monday night’s letter, the Democratic lawmakers ask Wojcicki several questions, including the amount of advertising revenue the company has received from election misinformation. The lawmakers have requested answers by Dec. 8.