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US election: allegations of electoral fraud find an audience of millions on YouTube


Researchers have examined the importance of YouTube in the US election: false information was distributed millions of times on the video platform - the company's countermeasures, however, were easy to overlook.

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"YouTube has to change a lot," says security expert Alex Stamos

Photo: Dado Ruvic / REUTERS

There is a myth of electoral fraud in the USA - also on YouTube.

The world's largest video platform has not succeeded in preventing a massive spread of false information about the US election.

This is shown by a study by US researchers and also corresponds to the opinion of the expert Alex Stamos.

The project examined 4,865 YouTube videos that were uploaded between November 3rd and 10th and discussed the outcome of the US presidential election and what Donald Trump and his supporters believe had been manipulated.

In order to determine which narrative determined the discussion on YouTube, the researchers divided the material into two categories: either the statements made in the videos supported the thesis that election fraud had occurred, or they contradicted it.

Millions of false information spread

The investigation comes to the conclusion that videos in which an election fraud is assumed were viewed a total of 137 million times.

This would mean that 34 percent of the views of videos on this topic would come from supporters of the electoral fraud thesis.

However, it is also clear that videos in which the alleged electoral fraud is denied or the topic is treated without evaluation reached significantly more people, namely 66 percent, which corresponds to around 274 million views.

YouTube also pointed this out in an interview in the »New York Times«, but without giving its own figures.

"The most watched videos on electoral fraud come from established media and the majority of searches and recommendations lead to content from credible sources," the newspaper quoted a spokesman as saying.

The study, known as the "preliminary analysis", does not reveal how the number of videos examined is distributed across the two categories.

In theory, just a few videos could have led to the high number of hits.

In addition, the informative value of the access numbers is limited because the researchers have no data on how many different users are behind it, i.e. how large the audience really was for the misinformation.

"Biggest digital disinformation event in US history"

However, spreading misinformation is a big problem, especially for YouTube.

"YouTube has to change a lot so that it doesn't happen again in 2022 and 2024," said Alex Stamos, former security chief of Facebook, who now works at Stanford University, in a podcast.

Stamos is a member of a research group that has set itself the task of monitoring communication and the exchange of information about the presidential election in the USA on social media platforms.

While Facebook was relatively successful in deleting disinformation posts and Twitter was comparatively aggressive in hiding corresponding tweets behind a warning notice, Stamos says that YouTube's measures were the least effective.

One of the reasons for this is the live function, with which YouTubers can reach thousands of people unfiltered in a very short time.

YouTube's tips on verified information about the choice were also partially not visible at all, depending on the setting of the screen format.

The 2020 US election is what Stamos calls "the biggest digital disinformation event in US history," and he blames high-reach social media accounts for it.

In contrast to previous elections, misinformation campaigns would no longer come primarily from abroad, but from within Germany.

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Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2020-11-22

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