YouTube has been accused of “injecting” itself into Irish politics after a leaked document revealed that it blacklisted abortion-themed search queries during the nation’s 2018 constitutional referendum.
In May 2018, Ireland overwhelmingly voted to abolish constitutional restrictions on abortion. The referendum received considerable media coverage worldwide, and YouTube, along with its parent company, Google, had publicly suspended all campaign ads ahead of the vote. This was done in pursuit of “election integrity efforts globally,” Google said at the time.
However, an internal document, leaked by right-wing media transparency group Project Veritas on Wednesday, showed that YouTube went not only after paid political ads but certain keywords and search queries as well.
The document lays out a series of blacklisted queries like “abortion is wrong,”“abortion is murdering,”“murdering of innocent babies,” and “abortion and Pope Francis.” The words “pro-life” and “pro-choice” also appear on the list along with other phrases, tied to the topic of abortion and specific issues of the 2018 campaign in Ireland.
The existence of the abortion-themed blacklist was confirmed by Breitbart News, which cited an unnamed former Google employee. The source said that the video-hosting giant added “120 abortion entries” to the search blacklist just seven days before the vote.
Project Veritas said that this tactic is akin to “manipulation of political content” by YouTube before the vote. The group’s founder James O’Keefe said that the revelations shed light on how YouTube is “injecting itself into global political events”and compared the company’s tactics to “meddling in elections.”
YouTube told Breitbart that its algorithms are designed to highlight “authoritative content of all political viewpoints” and prevent “spam and conspiracy theories from surfacing prominently on our site.”
“In the midst of the Irish referendum on abortion, our systems brought authoritative content to the top of our search results for abortion-related queries. This happened for both pro-choice and pro-life queries, there was no distinction.”
In recent years, YouTube has been accused by many conservatives of censoring right-wing viewpoints and forcing conservative content creators to leave the platform. The company, for its part, denies harboring any political biases.