YouTube has announced new rules against the spread of conspiracy theories that incite violence. One of them is QAnon.
Supporters of QAnon believe that President Trump is fighting a global conspiracy of high-ranking people who seek world domination (a so-called ‘deep state’) and are guilty of child abuse. A related theory, known as Pizzagate, argues that prominent Democratic Party members and Hollywood celebrities run a sexual abuse network from the basement of a Washington pizzeria.
YouTube is also introducing stricter rules regarding misleading content about the corona virus. Claims along the lines of “Those who receive the corona vaccine will die” are now taboo on the video platform. Supporters of QAnon have made extensive use of YouTube by posting videos there.
Others ran their own talk shows. YouTube users receive recommendations based on algorithms, which means that those statements have been widely disseminated. Some videos have been viewed millions of times. It is precisely those recommendations that YouTube has been struggling with for some time. It wants to push back expressions that go against the internal rules, or push the boundaries thereof – the so-called ‘borderline content’.
Context remains important
Last week, another tech giant, Facebook, already took steps to stop the spread of conspiracy theories through its platforms. Pages on Facebook and accounts of Facebook subsidiary Instagram representing QAnon will in principle be deleted, even if they do not contain calls to violence. Smaller platforms such as Pinterest, Etsy and Triller have also imposed stricter rules against spreading unproven conspiracy theories and inciting violence based on them.
The tightened policy at YouTube takes effect immediately. The company was already in the process of removing videos and channels that propagate disinformation and conspiracy theories, but now it will be added that statements in which individuals or groups are threatened with violence based on such ideas.
There is still room for journalistic reporting on these kinds of phenomena, YouTube says: “As always, the context remains important.”
NOS op 3 explained last month why conspiracy theories crop up a lot during the corona crisis: