Google, YouTube ban election trolls ahead of US midterms • The Register

Google, YouTube ban election trolls ahead of US midterms • The Register


Google and its YouTube subsidiary have joined other social media networks pledging to keep the 2022 US midterm elections safe and free from Russian trolls — and anyone else spewing democracy-damaging disinformation – by taking down such content.

The election strategies follow Google’s move to ban MAGA message-board Truth Social from its Play store until the app removes content that incites violence.

YouTube has already removed “a number of videos” that violate its guidelines, according to Leslie Miller, its VP of government affairs and public policy. We’re told that at least some of these vids claimed, wrongly, that the election of President Joe Biden was rigged.

“This includes videos that violated our election integrity policy by claiming widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 US presidential election, or alleging the election was stolen,” she explained.

Other election content now apparently guaranteed to be yanked from YouTube includes anything that misleads people on where and how to vote, videos encouraging watchers to disrupt the democratic process or inciting violence, or pushing elections misinformation. 

For viewers looking for “authoritative” news sources, YouTube will “prominently” suggest stories from PBS NewsHour, The Wall Street Journal, Univision, and local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates, according to Miller. It’s worth noting that Fox News isn’t on the list.

Additionally, the site will show panels in English and Spanish, and direct viewers to Google’s “how to vote” and “how to register to vote” pages. Google, in a second such midterm-election support post, said its strategy centers around “connecting voters to the latest election information, helping campaigns and people working on elections improve their cybersecurity and protecting our users and platforms from abuse.”

Specifically this includes how and where to vote election information from Democracy Works, and live election results from the Associated Press.

On the election security side of things, Google said it partnered with Defending Digital Campaigns to provide free security keys to more than 300 national committees, state parties, and political campaigns. It also provides these organizations with security services to protect against cyberattacks, and trained some 4,000 campaign and election officials on security best practices, we’re told.

Additionally, the search giant will enforce its policies “to combat the spread of election misinformation and demonstrably false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in the electoral process, such as false information about polling locations, means of voting, candidate eligibility or election results,” Google VP of Trust and Safety Laurie Richardson wrote.

Google also said it limits how advertisers can target election ads, and earlier this year updated its Political Ads Transparency Report, which provides users with data on political ads displayed on Google, including who paid for the ads and how much money they spent.

In recent weeks, other tech giants including Twitter, Meta and TikTok have published their own missives about how they plan to counter misinformation in the lead up to the midterm elections, mostly by removing, labeling, or hiding material deemed unwanted.

Disinformation online ranked No. 2 ‘major threat’

The moves also come as folks are increasingly aware of — and, apparently, worried about — disinformation spreading on social media and other online platforms.

This is after Russian trolls, and others, spammed social networks at least in the run-up to the 2020 US elections to stoke divisions among citizens, undermine public confidence in the voting process, and upend discourse. There were also cyberattack attempts, though ultimately the presidential election was declared “the most secure in American history.”

A Pew Research survey of 24,525 people from 19 countries ranked the spread of false information online as the No. 2 threat with 70 percent of those surveyed saying it represents a “major threat” to their country. Climate change (75 percent) topped the list, while nation-state cyberattacks (67 percent) came in third.

Election misinformation, and the physical violence it can incite, even made its way into US President Joe Biden’s speech this week in Philadelphia, where he described Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans as threats to democracy.

“I will not stand by and watch — I will not — the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless evidence-free claims of fraud,” Biden said, alluding to the Trump- and MAGA-endorsed Big Lie over the 2020 US election results.

“I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost.” ®

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