In the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election, Big Tech engaged in unprecedented levels of election censorship, most notably by censoring the New York Post’s bombshell Hunter Biden laptop story just a few weeks before voters went to the polls.
And with the 2024 US presidential election less than a year away, both Google and its video sharing platform, YouTube, have confirmed that they plan to censor content they deem to be “harmful” in the run-up to the election.
In its announcement, Google noted that it already censors content that it deems to be “manipulated media” or “hate and harassment” — two broad, subjective terms that have been used by tech giants to justify mass censorship.
However, ahead of 2024, the tech giant has started using large language models (LLMs) to experiment with “building faster and more adaptable” censorship systems that will allow it to “take action even more quickly when new threats emerge.”
Google will also be censoring election-related responses in Bard (its generative AI chatbot) and Search Generative Experience (its generative AI search results).
In addition to these censorship measures, Google will be continuing its long-standing practice of artificially boosting content that it deems to be “authoritative” in Google Search and Google News. While this tactic doesn’t result in the removal of content, it can result in disfavored narratives being suppressed and drowned out by these so-called authoritative sources, which are mostly pre-selected legacy media outlets.
Like Google, YouTube confirmed that it will enforce its existing censorship policies ahead of the 2024 elections, including those that apply to election “misinformation” and “harmful conspiracy theories.” These policies resulted in the censorship of tens of thousands of videos and many popular channels in the buildup to and aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
The video sharing platform will also boost videos from authoritative sources — a policy that resulted in independent creators being 14x less likely to be recommended on election-related content after the 2020 elections.
Additionally, YouTube will demonetize videos that it deems to contain “demonstrably false claims that could undermine trust or participation in elections.”
Outside of these direct censorship tactics, YouTube will label “altered or synthetic election content” that doesn’t violate any of its rules. Although these labels won’t result in content suppression, similar labels on other platforms have confused users and resulted in them believing that real but selectively edited videos are fake. Plus, legacy media outlets often use these labels to bolster their censorship demands.
Collectively, these announcements from Google and YouTube signal an intention to supercharge the mass censorship playbook that was deployed during the 2020 election and resulted in a two-tiered system where independent creators that dared to have dissenting or alternative opinions about the election were censored while legacy media outlets had their election narrative boosted across Google’s platforms.
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