At least nine popular YouTube channels on Thursday promoted false allegations of vote fraud in the U.S. presidential election. These conspiracy content may harm their advertising and membership revenue from video services.

Reuters discovered these channels, ranging from channels with 1,000 followers to more than 6,29,000 channels, and recognized the channels that the Associated Press, Reuters, and other organizations’ fact-checking units believed to be false or inaccurate.

YouTube, owned by Alphabet’s Google, has established rules that prohibit channels that use its revenue-generating tools from making “obviously false statements and may seriously undermine participation in or trust in elections or democratic procedures.”

When asked whether it would suspend advertising and membership sales on the channel, Google did not immediately respond, which is commonly referred to as “de-monetization.”

As some states are counting votes, the result will determine the fierce competition between Republican President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump has made baseless accusations that the Democratic Party stole the election. Trump supporters gathered behind the misinformation on social media and protests outside of the counting site.

People like Google, Facebook and Twitter work hard every day to prevent this misleading, because millions of posts arrive every day.

Researchers who track misinformation say that content creators contribute to misinformation, and they find opportunities to profit from it. In the past few years, they have put pressure on YouTube and its advertisers for strict censorship.

Now, some YouTube advertisers avoid sponsoring political content. However, the services provided by members can help offset the loss of advertising sales. The services provided by members enable fans to spend a few dollars a month on exclusive content and promotional items.

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A channel seen by Reuters, JohnTalks, shared two videos about Thursday in Michigan, a key battleground state for the election, where Biden won suspected election fraud, generating more than 90,000 opinions in eight hours.

In the alleged claim, trucks, suitcases and reefers were used to smuggle ballots to the counting center. At least three news media have investigated this claim and determined that these items were used to provide food and camera equipment for the election staff of the local election television station.

JohnTalks did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Liberal online watchdog Media Matters for America said in a report on Thursday that videos that found suspicious statements after the election received more than 1 million views.

YouTube’s “obviously false” election information policy attracted attention on Wednesday when CNBC reported that a US news network was prematurely declaring Trump as the winner from its YouTube video, thereby generating advertising revenue. YouTube said it will not delete the video, but has stopped advertising on it.

Trump’s remarks about fraud also created opportunities for his critics. Some popular YouTube channels advertised and sold memberships, and these videos generated thousands of views on videos that refuted Trump supporters’ claims about voter fraud.

© Thomson Reuters 2020


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