YouTube’s decision to permit content promoting election conspiracy theories and misinformation is being heralded by right-wing media and figures as a win for “free speech.”
The platform confirmed to Axios on June 2 that it would allow users to upload content claiming that “fraud, errors or glitches occurred in the 2020 presidential election and other U.S. elections.” The decision reverses a December 2020 election integrity policy, which the company reportedly felt could have the effect of “curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm."
On Friday, Media Matters’ Julie Millican released a statement condemning the decision: “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.”
In March, YouTube reinstated former President Donald Trump’s account – which was suspended following the January 6 attack on the Capitol – despite his continued attempts to push the election misinformation that resulted in real-world violence. The decision to allow election conspiracy theories to circulate on the platform recklessly ignores social media as a major factor in the deadly insurrection.
Some right-wing media outlets and figures are celebrating the policy change, claiming that it’s a win for conservatives, who falsely claim that social media platforms are censoring them. Others have also linked the decision to Elon Musk rolling back content moderation policies on Twitter, with some saying Musk paved the way for YouTube’s decision.
Right-wing outlets and figures celebrated that election conspiracy theories will be allowed on the platform again
- Reacting to the news, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander declared on Telegram that “Stop the Steal prevails.”
- Right Side Broadcasting reporter Liz Willis tweeted: “HUGE 🚨- YouTube reverses ‘election misinformation policy,’ allows people to discuss the fraudulent 2020 election.”
- Former Epoch Times columnist-turned-QAnon influencer Brian Cates celebrated the news on Telegram, saying, “First they mock and ridicule you. Then they angrily call you a bigot and a liar. Then they ban you. Then they admit you were right and THEN YOU WIN.”
- Notorious election deniers and founders of True the Vote Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips tweeted about the news, saying of YouTube: “Just figured out they committed billions of federal crimes? …nope just figured out they lost 1/2 of Americas eyeballs and the money that comes with them.”
- Following the policy reversal, the QAnon account Badlands Media suggested the account would post election misinformation on YouTube, saying, “Let's see if YouTube is actually going to backtrack on censorship. If you're on there, be sure to subscribe to Badlands Media! We'll be putting it to the test.”
- Gateway Pundit writer and Badlands Media host Brian Lupo, who is known online as “CannCon” and was allegedly banned from YouTube in June 2021 for posting election misinformation, celebrated YouTube’s policy reversal. Lupo declared on Twitter, “YouTube back in play!!!!”
Right-wing media figures and outlets praised Musk for “moving the needle” and implied his actions influenced YouTube’s decision
- On Twitter, right-wing influencer ALX credited Musk for YouTube’s decision, saying, “Last week, YouTube reversed their policy on talking about election fraud just as Twitter has been focusing on long form content. … Twitter is moving the needle and forcing other platforms to swing toward Free Speech.”
- Cheering on YouTube’s move, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton tweeted that the decision was a sign “of the impact of @ElonMusk's free speech reforms.”
- On Twitter, former Fox Business host Trish Regan asked if YouTube made the decision because the platform is “worried about Twitter competition.”
- The right-wing outlet Epoch Times emphasized Musk in coverage of YouTube’s policy reversal and parroted Musk’s framing that he is a free speech “‘absolutist’ … who took over Twitter last year with a pledge to remove political bias from the platform and make it more balanced.”