YouTube Channels Making Money From Ads Amplify Trump’s Voter Fraud Allegations
At least nine popular YouTube channels were promoting debunked allegations of election fraud in the U.S. presidential race on Thursday, conspiratorial content that could jeopardize the advertising and membership revenue they earn from the video service.
Reuters found the channels, ranging from those with 1,000 followers to more than 6.29,000, backing claims that the fact-checking units of the Associated Press, Reuters and other organizations have deemed false or inaccurate.
Youtube, owned by Alphabet’s Google, has rules that prohibit channels that use its revenue-generating tools from making “claims that are demonstrably false and that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process.”
Google didn’t immediately respond when asked if it would suspend channel membership sales and ads, a penalty commonly known as “demonetization.”
With the ongoing vote count in some states, the results of which will decide the disputed race between the Republican president Donald trump and Democratic nominee Joe biden, Trump has made unsubstantiated accusations about the theft of the election by the Democratic Party. Trump supporters have rallied behind misinformation on social media and in protests outside of vote counting sites.
Google, Facebook and Twitter and others have fought to protect themselves against misinformation, as millions of posts arrive every day.
Researchers tracking misinformation say it is driven by content creators who see an opportunity to profit from it. In recent years, they have lobbied YouTube and its advertisers to step up scrutiny.
Some YouTube advertisers now avoid endorsing political content. But the membership offering, whereby fans pay a few dollars a month for exclusive content and promotional merchandise, has helped make up for lost ad sales.
One of the channels seen by Reuters, JohnTalks, shared two videos on Thursday about alleged electoral fraud in Michigan, a key state in the elections that Biden won, generating more than 90,000 views in eight hours.
Among the claims cited is that wagons, suitcases and portable refrigerators were used to smuggle the ballots to a counting center. At least three news outlets investigated the claim and determined that the items carried food for poll workers and camera equipment for a local television station.
JohnTalks did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Liberal online watchdog group Media Matters for America said in a report Thursday that it found that videos making dubious claims after the elections have garnered more than 1 million views overall.
YouTube’s policy on “demonstrably false” election information came to attention Wednesday when CNBC reported that One American News Network was generating advertising revenue from its YouTube video prematurely declaring Trump the winner. YouTube said it would not remove the video, but stopped running ads on it.
Trump’s speech on fraud has also created opportunities for his critics. Some popular YouTube channels, which run ads and sell memberships, have generated hundreds of thousands of views on videos refuting claims of voter fraud by Trump supporters.