Analyzing Toxic Discourse on Latin American YouTube Channels

Erik Van Zummeren and Cameron Ballard are the founders of Raditube, a tool that helps journalists, rights advocates, and democracy defenders understand harmful content and actors on YouTube. Shutterstock In the beginning of June, YouTube announced it has reversed its policy on election misinformation pertaining to the 2020 presidential election in the United States. The company said it will “stop removing content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections,” since “while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect of curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm.”  The move brought renewed attention to the problem of mis- and disinformation as well as extremism on the platform, and the link between the propagation of such content and real world harm. In an unpublished report, the investigative team for the House Select Committee that investigated the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol found that YouTube failed to take adequate steps to limit election misinformation between December 9th 2020, and January 6th, 2021. The site served as a key repository for false claims, which were “deployed across the rest of the internet.”  But no matter the scale of such problems in the US, various investigations into YouTube’s role in other regions has shown its shortcomings are more severe elsewhere, especially in non-English speaking countries. In Latin America, these problems are particularly acute.  For instance, in Mexico,…Analyzing Toxic Discourse on Latin American YouTube Channels