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Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff

Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff

Democratic senators are urging YouTube to remove videos spreading election misinformation and to step up efforts to combat misinformation ahead of the Georgia Senate runoffs.

The senators sent a letter Tuesday calling on YouTube to detail steps the company will take surrounding the Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs, which will decide which party controls the Senate. 

“We urge you to immediately remove all election outcome misinformation and take aggressive steps to implement prohibitions, as other social media companies have done, regarding outcomes in future elections,” wrote Democratic Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen Year-end deal creates American Latino, women's history museums Lawmakers call for including creation of Latino, women's history museums in year-end spending deal MORE (N.J.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack Democratic senator raises concerns about inauguration security MORE (Hawaii), Gary PetersGary PetersThe Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Two Senate committees vow probe of security failure during Capitol riots US government caught blindsided over sophisticated cyber hack, experts say MORE (Mich) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts A Day in Photos: The Biden Inauguration Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department MORE (Minn.). 

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“YouTube and its industry peers must take responsibility and immediately stop the spread of misinformation and manipulated media on their platforms,” they added. 

The senators said videos on YouTube spreading baseless claims of election fraud “undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the legitimacy of” President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Fauci infuriated by threats to family MORE’s incoming administration. 

The senators underscored their letter by noting President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report MORE’s refusal to concede may lead to real-world consequences from the online misinformation. 

“Because the current president has not committed to a peaceful transition of power, misinformation and manipulated media content on your platform may fuel civil unrest,” they wrote. 

The senators asked YouTube to detail its plans to mitigate the impact of content that will spread false information casting doubt on ballots surrounding the Georgia runoff. 

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They also asked the company to commit to removing content containing false or misleading information as to the 2020 general election and the upcoming elections in Georgia. 

YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi defended the platform’s handling of content surrounding the election, but did not confirm that the company would remove election misinformation ahead of the runoff. 

“Like other companies, we allow discussions of this election’s results and the process of counting votes, and are continuing to closely monitor new developments,” Choi said in a statement in response to the letter.

Choi also said that the company is working to swiftly remove content that violates its policies and connect users with “authoritative information about elections” and said the most popular videos about the election are from “authoritative news organizations."

Tech companies have faced mounting scrutiny over their handling of misinformation around the election. 

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A group of Democratic senators on Tuesday sent a separate set of letters to Facebook and Twitter calling on the companies to detail their plans to handle misinformation surrounding the Georgia runoff. 

Tech CEOs have frequently faced questioning from senators this year. Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Biden names acting chairs to lead FCC, FTC | Facebook to extend Trump ban pending review | Judge denies request for Amazon to immediately restore Parler Facebook to extend Trump ban pending review Facebook has no current plan to end the Trump suspension MORE and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey faced the Senate Judiciary Committee last week over Republicans' allegations of anti-conservative bias. During the hearing, however, Democrats pressed the tech CEOs on their efforts to combat misinformation and hate speech. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has also appeared before the Senate, most recently last month alongside Zuckerberg and Dorsey, and has faced similar questions from both sides. But he has largely not had to specifically address questions over Google’s subsidiary, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, has escaped appearing at Senate hearings to be questioned by senators over the platform's handling of misinformation. 

Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoff is crucial. Democrats will have to win both races to gain control of the Senate. 

Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) is facing Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerLimbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration Suburbs pose challenge for GOP in post-Trump era Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority MORE (R), who was appointed after the retirement of Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler concedes to Warnock Hawley to still object to Pennsylvania after Capitol breached Hillary Clinton trolls McConnell: 'Senate Minority Leader' MORE (R), and Democrat Jon Ossoff is facing Sen. David PerdueDavid PerdueSuburbs pose challenge for GOP in post-Trump era Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader MORE (R) after both candidates fell short of garnering 50 percent of the vote in the general election.

--Updated at 3:25 p.m.