Lawmakers slam YouTube for overturning policy banning election misinformation

Top legislators on Thursday criticized the CEOs of YouTube and parent company Alphabet for weakening the video sharing platform’s election misinformation policy in the run-up to next year’s pivotal presidential contest.

A recent announcement from YouTube said the platform will stop removing videos that advance misinformation about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election and previous ones. Four top Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, including Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr. (D.-NJ), sharply criticized the announcement and called on the company to reverse the new policy.

“While you claim that taking such action is ‘core to a functioning democratic society,’ we emphatically disagree,” the legislators wrote in a letter. “Not only is this decision extremely irresponsible, but, in fact, it threatens to weaken our democracy, and therefore we strongly urge you to reconsider this harmful policy decision.”

A spokesperson for YouTube did not respond to a request for comment.

In its June 2 announcement about the policy, YouTube said after “two years, tens of thousands of video removals, and one election cycle,” its leaders realized they needed to reevaluate their earlier policy barring posts from election deniers because it could have the “unintended effect of curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm.”

The blog post said that as a result YouTube would no longer remove content that makes “false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections.”

The legislators blasted the company for the decision saying it “threatens to weaken our democracy.”

Content undermining the legitimacy of the most recent presidential election has already caused harm to election workers, law enforcement, and elected officials, the legislators wrote. They added that similar election misinformation has already surfaced in the 2024 election cycle.

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Suzanne Smalley

Suzanne Smalley

is a reporter covering privacy, disinformation and cybersecurity policy for The Record. She was previously a cybersecurity reporter at CyberScoop and Reuters. Earlier in her career Suzanne covered the Boston Police Department for the Boston Globe and two presidential campaign cycles for Newsweek. She lives in Washington with her husband and three children.