On Tuesday, YouTube released its strategy for dealing with voting misinformation on Election Day. Alarmingly, the platform listed Fox News as an example of an “authoritative” source it plans to “elevate,” despite the network relentlessly pushing misinformation about voting and mail-in ballots both on YouTube and off.
On October 27, YouTube joined Twitter and Facebook in releasing plans for dealing with rampant online misinformation about voting around Election Day. YouTube pledged to “continue to elevate authoritative sources, including news publishers like CNN and Fox News, for election-related news and information queries in search results and ‘watch next’ panels. And our recommendations systems will also keep limiting the spread of harmful election-related misinformation and borderline content.”
YouTube’s pledge to limit false and misleading content about the election while boosting Fox News as a credible source is concerning given the network’s propensity for pushing misinformation around voting and mail-in ballots -- misinformation that has gone unchecked on the platform. Fox News’ YouTube accounts, including a channel titled NewsNOW from Fox, have pushed a slew of recent misinformation on voting; a Media Matters study found that 6 of the top 100 YouTube videos about mail-in voting posted between March and August came from these Fox channels, amassing a combined 2.6 million views at the time of the study’s publication. And since the study’s conclusion in late September, those channels -- as well as Fox Business -- have continued to publish videos pushing baseless claims of widespread election fraud.
Notably, many of Fox’s videos on YouTube contain misinformation about voting, such as a May 26 clip in which Fox host Tucker Carlson alleged that Democrats are trying to legalize the practice of “ballot harvesting” in all 50 states and “make it as unrestricted as possible” in order to skew votes toward Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. (The false right-wing media narrative of “ballot harvesting” conflates absentee ballot fraud with a legal method of ballot collection that is currently used in 27 states.)
The Media Matters study also showed that YouTube has a problem when it comes to enabling right-leaning channels like Fox to push false or misleading claims about voting on the platform; it’s a grim development that YouTube will label one of the largest purveyors of such misinformation as a credible source and amplify that content on Election Day.