Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
Months after social media giant YouTube promised to crack down on misinformation, former President Donald Trump's lawyer and election conspiracy theorist Rudy Giuliani is still pushing conspiracy theories on the platform.
A Media Matters review of Giuliani's YouTube channel found a mountain of election-related conspiracy theories and misinformation that has largely remained intact, despite the platform's stated policy that it will remove content which undermines the election results. And after taking a roughly one-month hiatus from the platform, from January 6 to February 3, Giuliani is back on YouTube, this time promoting racist conspiracy theories.
Giuliani's channel, which hosts his Common Sense podcast and boasts over half a million subscribers, has continued to publish videos which violate YouTube's policies. In January, he was suspended from YouTube's Partner Program, which allows creators to split revenue earned by YouTube through advertisements that run before his videos. (He still apparently has the opportunity to appeal this suspension. Around this same time, Giuliani also tweeted that three of his videos were removed from his channel. His videos regularly rake in hundreds of thousands of views, and some of his videos which spread election conspiracy theories have more than a million views each.
The disgraced former New York City mayor has recently come under more fire for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. That day, at the "Save America" rally preceding the riots, he called on Trump supporters to engage in "trial by combat." Since then, Giuliani has been the target of three high-profilelawsuits related to his role spreading misinformation. The lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems heavily cites Giuliani's YouTube channel as the main platform for Giuliani's alleged defamation.
At least some of Giuliani's videos on YouTube remain monetized, meaning YouTube is directly making money from his lies. It is unclear whether Giuliani himself is taking home any of that revenue, as media outlets have reported he was suspended from the YouTube Partner Program. But he nevertheless still financially benefited, as there were direct advertisements on his show for companies selling earbuds, gold, and cigars.
Despite YouTube's stated policies, multiple Giuliani videos spreading conspiracy theories remain up. In these videos, Giuliani lies about Dominion Voting Systems, tells viewers former Vice President Mike Pence would overturn the election, and commands viewers to "stand up" against imaginary election fraud.
Since his return to posting videos on the platform, Giuliani has pivoted in his content to promoting racist conspiracy theories about China deliberately releasing the coronavirus to spite Trump and false claims about undocumented immigrants voting in the 2020 election.
Giuliani's False Election Fraud Claims Still On YouTube
In the post-election period before the "safe harbor" date when the Electoral College results were finalized, Giuliani used his YouTube channel to promote false claims that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election through "fraud" and pushed his viewers to "take a stand."
- While the votes were still being counted, Giuliani asserted on November 6, "Pennsylvania is Trump's. If for any reason that vote total changes, it has to be a fraud."
- On December 4, Giuliani told viewers, "It's time for patriots to stand up." He asked them, "How do you want to live your life? You want to live it as a patriotic American or do you want to live it as a sniveling little coward?" He ended his podcast by saying, "Biden deliberately stole this election and actually lost it to Donald Trump by a fairly wide margin."
- On November 20, Giuliani warned viewers that Dominion Voting Systems is a "Venezuelan company built to cheat." He was echoing widely mocked conspiracy theories put forth by Trump attorney Sidney Powell at a press conference the day before in which Giuliani infamously spoke with hair dye leaking down his temple. In the podcast, Giuliani added, "We've got to make a stand here. ... I don't care how much they intimidate us. I don't care how much they threaten us," because Democrats are "trying to take away from us rights that were given to us by God."
YouTube's Stance Against Election Misinformation Didn't Affect Giuliani
On November 9, the day after the Electoral College confirmed Biden's victory in the presidential election, YouTube introduced a new policy titled "Supporting the 2020 U.S. election." The policy promised to remove "any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election."
This policy apparently did not apply to Giuliani, who continued using the platform to espouse lies until his suspension following the January 6 insurrection. While YouTube eventually removed three of Giuliani's podcasts following the coup, the platform left up videos of Giuliani claiming widespread voter fraud was achieved through a covert Democratic Party conspiracy to steal the election from Trump.
- On December 18, Giuliani falsely asserted that Dominion Voting Systems "has had a long history of involvement with other companies, in particular with a company known as Smartmatic." Giuliani also claimed that Smartmatic's "original investors" were "two Venezuelans who were close to Hugo Chavez."
- On the same podcast, Giuliani claimed that initial counting errors by Dominion Voting Systems machines in Antrim County, Michigan, "virtually means there was no election."
- On December 30, Giuliani falsely claimed, "The Democrats stole the election in Georgia. … We allowed them to take from us a good deal of our freedom of speech. We allowed them to take a lot of our freedom of religion, freedom of movement. Well, I'll be darned if we're going to let them take our free, fair, and transparent vote from us."
- On his January 1 podcast, Guliani said that Democrats "were intent on winning that election no matter what they had to do, including steal votes," and that they did so by "demoniz[ing] medicines like hydroxychloroquine."
When Giuliani was suspended in early January, YouTube removed two videos from his channel that had been posted in early January and contained multiple violations of YouTube's new policy.
- On January 5, Giuliani told listeners that not only could then-Vice President Mike Pence decide the 2020 election on January 6, "a day that will live on in history," but also there was a "really good chance" the election results "will end up in the Supreme Court."
- During his since-removed January 8 podcast, Giuliani cited a claim by white nationalist "groyper" Nick Fuentes that the attempted coup on January 6 was a "leftist, deep-state globalist operation." Giuliani added, "I guess I could summarize Nick Fuentes in my own words: It was clearly a frame-up."
- On that same podcast, Giuliani referred to the January 6 rally prior to the riots as "very, very uplifting" and a "rally of love," defending the inflammatory rhetoric of the speeches by asserting, "They didn't create any anger or excessive anything. There was no violence at the speeches. None. No hint of it. No taste of it. No feeling of it."
Giuliani Continues To Promote Bigotry On YouTube
Since Giuliani started posting on YouTube again in early February, he's continued to promote bigotry and misinformation. In his most recent uploads, Giuliani's use of hateful rhetoric and conspiracy theories related to China are especially concerning given the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. The former mayor also insinuated that a recent executive order by the Biden administration undoing a Trump-era policy of not counting undocumented immigrants in the census was actually part of a conspiracy to increase Democratic votes — a bogus claim that clearly violates YouTube's stated election misinformation policy.
- On his February 10 podcast, Giuliani claimed that the Biden administration "seems to be more favorable to China than the U.S.," saying, "I knew America wasn't going to be first. Biden told us that. I didn't realize that China was going to become first."
- Giuliani spent his February 10 podcast repeatedly calling the coronavirus "the CCP virus" (short for "Chinese Communist Party virus") and the "Wuhan virus," complaining about how Trump was "attacked as a xenophobe or racist" for using identical language.
- Giuliani spread a racist conspiracy theory that Democrats are "including illegals in the census" to increase Democratic representation in Congress — all a way of "moving them along the road to voting, to voting openly." Giuliani added, "Look, they vote anyway."
Giuliani's continued presence on YouTube despite repeated violations of the platform's policy raises the question: Why is Rudy Giuliani's YouTube channel still up? Furthermore, why did YouTube remove only two Giuliani videos after the January 6 insurrection, yet leave up many of his other videos promoting the exact same lies? And why give this "human hand grenade" a platform of a half-million subscribers anyway?