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YouTube rolls back its rules against election misinformation

YouTube was the slowest major platform to disallow misinformation during the 2020 U.S. election and almost three years later, the company will toss that policy out altogether.

The company announced Friday that it would reverse its rules around election denialism, allowing some previously prohibited false claims, effective immediately. Axios first reported the changes.

“In the current environment, we find that while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect of curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm,” the company wrote in a blog post.

“With that in mind, and with 2024 campaigns well underway, we will stop removing content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections.”

YouTube still won’t allow some kids of false election-related claims, like lying about the location of polling places and other specific efforts to dissuade people from successfully casting a vote.

“All of our election misinformation policies remain in place, including those that disallow content aiming to mislead voters about the time, place, means, or eligibility requirements for voting; false claims that could materially discourage voting, including those disputing the validity of voting by mail; and content that encourages others to interfere with democratic processes,” the company wrote.

There’s certainly an argument that, on the whole, denying the valid results of a presidential election ultimately does more to discourage people from voting than these more targeted hypothetical scenarios. But it doesn’t appear that allowing users to sow broad mistrust in the democratic process fits into the company’s definition of “real-world harm.”

Even if enforcement was challenging, it’s a strange choice to announce that it’s open season for U.S. election denial on YouTube, particularly with the 2024 race gearing up. The company plans to offer more updates around its 2024 election strategy in the next few months, so hopefully YouTube elaborates on its thinking or other planned precautions then.

YouTube rolls back its rules against election misinformation by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch

Elon Musk ushers in DeSantis’s 2024 campaign, signaling a new era for Twitter

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis filed the paperwork to officially launch his presidential campaign on this afternoon, but opted to join Elon Musk on a Twitter Space to discuss his campaign on Wednesday evening. DeSantis’s decision to forgo traditional news venues in favor of making a big media moment with Musk marks a new phase for the social network — and one that would have been impossible to foresee back in 2016, or even 2020.

DeSantis met Musk on friendly turf. In spite of feints to the contrary, Musk’s views are reliably conservative, with a focus on social and cultural issues that’s only escalated since his decision to buy Twitter. Last year, Musk explicitly said that he planned to support DeSantis’s potential bid for the presidency, calling him a “sensible and centrist” choice. Musk previously encouraged his 140 million followers to vote for Republicans in 2022’s midterm elections.

Musk has increasingly aligned himself with the political right, including at times its more dangerous, conspiracy-fueled fringes. Just this month, Musk propagated the lie that the mass shooter who killed eight people in a Dallas area shopping mall this month was being framed as a white supremacist. In fact, as researchers confirmed, the gunman sported at least two overt Nazi symbols as tattoos, including an SS sign and a swastika, and espoused white supremacist beliefs online.

Florida’s governor and Twitter’s new owner share plenty of ideological territory. Both Musk and DeSantis — Florida’s self-styled “anti-woke” governor — obsessively tilt at their ideological enemies (the woke mob or the “woke mind virus” in Musk’s parlance). Musk has gone out of his way to relax enforcement and lift the guardrails that once protected vulnerable groups like Black users and the LGBTQ community on Twitter, while DeSantis is systematically dismantling any protections that queer and transgender Floridians once enjoyed and blocking education around Black history. (Things are so rough in the Sunshine State that both the NAACP and Human Rights Campaign recently issued travel advisories.) Both DeSantis and Musk hold particular ire for the transgender community, which they regularly express by wielding political power in their respective domains.

The Twitter Space with Florida’s newly-minted presidential hopeful isn’t the only sign that Twitter is entering a new era. When shakeups at Fox News ousted longtime top host Tucker Carlson, he quickly announced that his show would be reinvented for Musk’s new incarnation of Twitter. DeSantis’s Twitter moment also signals that the social platform is now a home to the kinds of conservative political moments that once unfolded on Fox News. It’s also a sign that Twitter might not be the social nexus for Trump’s base that it once was, even after Musk extended a warm welcome to the former president.

Twitter and Trump

The Florida governor’s decision to informally kick off his campaign on Twitter is the latest sign that the social platform is evolving into something quite different than what came before. For years, Twitter as a platform was synonymous with Trump — slated to be his main opponent in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination.

The former president, who first secured the Republican nomination in 2016, at times tweeted upwards of 50 times a day. That hyperactive Twitter presence defined his presidency, as did his trademark style of erratic capitalization and inscrutable typos (one covfefe please, milk no sugar). After breaking the platform’s rules for years, Trump was eventually booted off of Twitter permanently in 2021 for his role in encouraging the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Since then, Trump has been mostly been relegated to the outskirts of mainstream social media. Meanwhile, Twitter itself has undergone a transformation that in some ways aligns it politically more than ever with the former president, even as Musk seeks to elevate DeSantis.

Trump’s Twitter fate shifted when Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk decided to take the helm at the company, purchasing it for $44 billion in October of last year. Musk, who governed Twitter policy for months based on his own whims and political preferences, lifted Trump’s ban shortly after taking over. But Trump has remained silent on the platform where he previous spent hours each day, likely because he’s still tied up with Truth Social, the alternative app branded with his name. Trump meanwhile is attacking his new opponent and stirring aging election conspiracies over there instead.

Twitter has transformed rapidly under Musk’s chaotic tutelage. The takeover gutted Twitter’s workforce, left the platform’s existing moderation and safety practices in shambles and drove away a hefty chunk of users and advertisers with no interest in an even more toxic version of the notoriously toxic social network. Twitter alternatives have cropped up and modestly flourished in the months since Musk took the helm, siphoning off former Twitter power users in the process. It’s not clear if the company plans to backtrack on any Musk-era decisions when Twitter’s new ad-savvy CEO, NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino, takes the top job. It’s more likely that Musk’s Twitter will lean further into its new thing — and we’re seeing whatever that is coalesce in real time.


Elon Musk ushers in DeSantis’s 2024 campaign, signaling a new era for Twitter by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch