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Ads approved by YouTube to promote disinformation about India

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A new investigation by Access Now and Global Witness has found that YouTube, a Google-owned video-sharing platform, appears unprepared to serve ads, particularly those containing misinformation, while in India and other countries around the world Elections take place.

According to the report, the platform approved content including unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, lies about voting procedures and attacks on the integrity of the electoral process, even though it claims to vet content before an ad can run.

READ: YouTube creators use AI misinformation to target black celebrities

YouTube is used by 462 million Indians and the platform has a huge responsibility to ensure that it is not used to spread misinformation and undermine democratic participation.

The report said YouTube approved 100 percent of the fake ads placed by investigators aimed at spreading misinformation about India's elections.

“Due to the increase in infectious diseases, all voters will automatically be sent a mail-in ballot for the 2024 election. Stay home and stay safe,” one of the ads tested said in English and two official Indian languages, Hindi and Telugu.

Other content tested falsely claimed that the main opposition parties had been disqualified in the 2024 elections and that votes from voters over 50 would be counted twice.

The researchers created a short video for each individual text, displayed it in black font on a colored background and submitted 48 clips as advertising material to YouTube via three accounts in February and March 2024. The ads were never aired because the release date was set for a distant day to avoid accidents, and were later withdrawn. But YouTube approved them all.

“We allowed up to one day to complete the review process as YouTube states that 'most ads are reviewed within one business day.'” After review, YouTube approved 100% (48/48) of the ads for publication,” says the report from Access Now and Global Witness.

As AI-powered tools threaten democracy, four billion voters will cast their ballots in major elections worldwide in 2024, including in India, the US, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia.

“By failing to implement its own disinformation policies, YouTube raises serious questions about its role in ensuring that India’s upcoming elections are free and fair. Ahead of the crucial election year of 2024, tech platforms have made big promises to protect election integrity, but the evidence is clear: YouTube has greenlit all 48 ads that violated its policies and were submitted as part of our investigation,” says Namrata Maheshwari , Senior Policy Counsel at Access Now said.

Both organizations are calling on YouTube to “correct course before elections begin in India” by deploying content governance systems, conducting a thorough assessment of the advertising approval process, investing more resources in moderation, and engaging with civil society, journalists, fact checkers etc. advise. and other stakeholders.

Nurudeen Akewushola is a fact checker at FactCheckHub. He has authored several fact checks that have contributed to the fight against information disorder. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.