Oh no. First YouTube institutes a “COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy” and starts deleting videos that tout fake cures or discourage people from following the medical advice of the WHO; then, YouTube takes a stand against any video that “misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.” What’s next?
Will they go after videos that include the phrase “Merry Christmas?” Or will they instead go after videos that falsely allege Christians are systematically persecuted for using the phrase “Merry Christmas?”
In all seriousness, Americans are still free to believe whatever they want about the election. The US Constitution says Congress will pass no law that restricts the freedom of speech or the press. Because YouTube is not Congress, YouTube’s actions (deleting videos that promote contra-factual election theories) are not threatening anyone’s Constitutional rights.
There’s a big difference between YouTube deciding what videos it will permit its users to share (which is what’s happening and which is perfectly legal), and the government arresting its citizens for publishing or watching certain videos (which is not happening, and which would be a violation of the First Amendment).
You wouldn’t want the government to tell you what books you can or can’t keep on your bookshelves, would you? You’d want to be able to make those decisions yourself. Americans are free to decide what books they want to buy, keep on their bookshelves, give away to friends, sell at garage sales, or toss in the garbage. Americans are free to believe what they want to believe. But woven into the fabric of that freedom is the legal right of YouTube to make its own decisions about what people can or can’t share on its platform — even if the President of the United States and his most ardent followers disagree with YouTube’s policy.
Americans are of course well within their rights to register their displeasure with YouTube in all sorts of perfectly American ways — by venting on social media, by filing lawsuits, and by taking their business elsewhere.
That’s the American way, and I’m grateful for it.
By contrast, Donald Trump’s years of threats to the free press, which include repeatedly calling the media “the enemy of the American people,” threatening to revoke the licenses of MSNBC and CNN as retaliation for news coverage he did not like, and directly attacking the very idea of a free press (“It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write,” –DJT) represent a serious and direct assault on Constitutional rights.
Legally his words have been toothless, but the sentiment is deeply embedded in a misinformation campaign designed to make people distrust any voice that challenges authority. I find that really troubling.
Yesterday was the safe harbor deadline for the U.S. Presidential election and enough states have certified their election results to determine a President-elect. Given that, we will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, in line with our approach towards historical U.S. Presidential elections. For example, we will remove videos claiming that a Presidential candidate won the election due to widespread software glitches or counting errors. We will begin enforcing this policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come. As always, news coverage and commentary on these issues can remain on our site if there’s sufficient education, documentary, scientific or artistic context.