The Kenya Forum | YouTube accused of approving election disinformation Ads in India - The Kenya Forum

April 5, 2024


India has the most number of people using YouTube in the world.

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YouTube accused of approving election disinformation Ads in India

YouTube accused of approving election disinformation Ads in India

Access Now accuses YouTube of approving election disinformation ads in India

Access Now, the non-profit that defends and extends digital rights, has accused Youtube of approving election disinformation ads in India ahead of the country’s general election.

The NGO says that investigations done in collaboration with  Global Witness shows that  YouTube approved 48 ads that were submitted on the video platform that contained content explicitly prohibited by YouTube’s elections misinformation policies.

The controversial Ads are said to have been in three official Indian languages; English, Hindi, and Telugu.

“YouTube is approving ads purporting baseless allegations of electoral fraud, lies about voting procedures, and attacks on the integrity of the electoral process,”.

Access now maintains that by running political Ads, Youtube is promoting voter suppression and disenfranchisement in India.

“By failing to implement its own policies around disinformation, YouTube raises serious questions about its role in ensuring that the upcoming Indian elections are free and fair,” said Namrata Maheshwari, Senior Policy Counsel at Access Now.

Repeated offender

“YouTube has become a repeat offender when it comes to inconsistent application of its advertisement and content policies,” said Henry Peck, Campaigner, Digital Threats at Global Witness. “What YouTube seems to be lacking is not suitable policies or the ability to enforce them, but the will to expand the same protections we’ve seen it grant in the US to people in the Global Majority.

With  462 million users, India has the most number of people using YouTube in the world. Access now says that now more than ever, Social Media platforms have an immense responsibility to be at the center of fighting disinformation.

General elections will be held in India from 19 April 2024 to 1 June 2024.

Google in response to the allegations said their enforcement process has multiple layers to ensure ads comply with their policies, and that ads that pass an initial check can still be blocked or removed by their enforcement systems if they violate Google’s policies.

Global Witness and Access now have criticised Google’s approach saying the fact that a contentious Ad can pass the checks and still end up being published, even when taken down later, the damage is already done.

“This is dangerous and irresponsible in an election period, where an ad can be published within hours of submission. Once an ad is live, the damage is done — especially given YouTube’s extensive reach,”.

YouTube must correct course before the elections kick off in India. To restore trust and enforce its commitments to human rights, Access Now and Global Witness call on YouTube to take immediate steps, which include: Investing more resources towards moderation of election-related content across languages in India; and consulting with civil society, journalists, fact-checkers, and other stakeholders to meaningfully incorporate feedback into policies.



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