FALSEHOODS slip onto YouTube.  The researchers find data hard to pin down, but see reason to worry.

NO, China has not worked with Democrats to steal the midterm elections., as some people on YouTube have claimed. Nor has Saudi Arabia.

And there is no evidence that an ''overwhelming amount of fraud'' tipped Pennsylvania in 2020, or that electronic voting machines will manipulate results this week, as one conservative activist has claimed in a video.

Ahead of U.S. midterm elections, disinformation watchdogs say they are concerned that what has been described as an aggressive effort by YouTube to confront misinformation on the Googleowned platform has developed  blind spots.

In particular, they are worried about YouTube's TikTok-like service, which offers very short videos, and about the platform's Spanish-language videos.

But the situation is difficult to understand clearly, more than researchers said in interviews with The New York Times, because they have limited access to data and because examining videos is time-intensive work.

''It's easier to do research with other forms of content,'' such as text found on Facebook or Twitter, said Jiore Craig, the head of digital integrity for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, or I.S.D., a nonprofit organization that counters extremism and disinformation. ''That puts YouTube in a situation where they get off easier.''   

While Facebook and Twitter are closely scrutinized for misinformation, YouTube has often flown under the radar, despite the broad influence of the video platform. It reaches more than two billion people and houses the web's second-most popular search engine.

YouTube banned videos that claimed widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election, but it has not established a comparable policy for the midterms, a move that prompted criticism from some watchdogs.

''You don't build a sprinkler system after the building is on fire,'' said Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, a nonprofit organization that monitors conservative misinformation.

A YouTube spokeswoman said the company disagreed with some of the criticism of its work fighting misinformation. ''We're heavily invested in our policies and systems to make sure we're successfully combating election-related misinformation with a multilayered approach,'' the spokeswoman Ivy Choi, said in a statement.

YouTube said it had removed a number of videos that The New York Times had flagged for violating its policies on spam and election integrity and that it had determined that other content did not violate its policies.

The company also said that from April to June, it had taken down 122,000 videos that contained misinformation.

''Our community guidelines prohibit misleading voters on how to vote, encouraging interference in the democratic process and falsely claiming that the 2000 U.S. election was rigged or stolen,'' Ms. Choi said. ''These policies apply globally, regardless of language.''

YouTube intensified its stance against political disinformation after the 2020 presidential election.  Some YouTube creators took to the platform and livestreamed the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Within 24 hours, the company began punishing people who spread the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen and revoked President Donald J Trump's uploading privileges.

YouTube committed $15 million to hire more than 100 additional content moderators to help with the modern elections and the presidential election in Brazil, and the company has more than 10,000 moderators stationed around the world, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss staffing decisions.

The company has finessed its recommendation algorithm so that the platform does not suggest political videos from unverified sources to other viewers, according to another person familiar with the matter.

YouTube also created an election war room involving dozens of officials, and has been preparing to quickly remove videos and livestreams that violate its policies on Election Day, the person said.

The Essay on YouTube and Elections, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Nico Grant.


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