A pro-Trump YouTube channel was slapped with a seven-day suspension and had several of its videos removed after it spread misinformation about the 2020 presidential election. Right Side Broadcasting Network’s (RSBN) suspension came just days before the former president’s high-profile arrest and could set the stage for many similar restrictions in the months to come as Donald Trump’s election denial campaign heats up.
In a statement on Tuesday, RSBN said YouTube suspended its account and deleted a handful of policy-violating videos, one involving an exclusive interview with Trump and another interview with Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, also an election denier, at the conservative CPAC conference. YouTube also removed a video of Trump at CPAC and another one of him speaking at a recent rally in Waco.
“Accordingly, the videos have been removed and a strike has been applied to the channel, and as a result, uploads and live streams by your account are suspended for a week,” YouTube said in an email to the network. RSBN’s accounts still appear active on Facebook and Twitter.
What are Youtube’s policies about election lies?
YouTube’s less-than-consistent election misinformation policies prohibit “advancing false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in certain past elections.” Those rules apply to all past US elections as well as the 2021 German federal election and the 2014, 2018, and 2022 Brazilian elections. Accounts found to have violated those rules receive a strike, which leads to a one-week suspension. Three of those strikes in one 90-day period can get an account permanently removed.
A YouTube spokesperson said in a statement, “While we do allow content with educational, documentary, scientific or artistic context, the content we removed from this channel did not provide sufficient context.”
RSBN calls suspension censorship, but watchdogs say it was long overdue
RSBN, which carved out a lane for itself by live-streaming Trump rallies, fired back at YouTube and tried to frame the suspension as another example of perceived, but largely unproven allegations of social media bias against conservatives. The news site pushed back against the misinformation ruling and accused YouTube of violating the company’s First Amendment rights. As many legal experts have pointed out, YouTube is a private company that by definition cannot infringe on users’ government-protected freedom of speech. RSBN disagreed, saying YouTube rules leave “millions of Americans voiceless.”
“Conveniently, YouTube’s Orwellian censorship practices have returned just one day before President Trump is arraigned in a gross weaponization of the justice system,” RSBN said in its statement. “Rather than allowing RSBN to show a countervailing view to the mainstream media’s version of the arraignment, they are simply shutting down our efforts.”
Media watchdog group Media Matters supported YouTube’s decision but said it was a long time coming for an organization that regularly comes close to violating the platform’s misinformation policies.
“YouTube has allowed Right Side News Broadcasting to routinely violate its terms of service by broadcasting election lies as it uses the platform to build a mainstream audience,” MMFA Vice President Julie Millican told Gizmodo. “RSBN is a megaphone for insurrectionists and gleefully flaunts YouTube’s rules by airing election conspiracies while advertising its Rumble page where it promises ‘Trump Exclusives’ with ‘No Censorship.’”
Rumble, another right-wing video-sharing site, came to RSBN’s defense on Twitter, responding to their statement by saying, “We have your back.” The right-wing YouTube knockoff has become a second home for a slew of accounts either suspended or removed from YouTube for violating its policies. RSBN said it plans to use Rumble to livestream Trump’s upcoming rally in Commerce, Georgia.
RSBN’s suspension—a sign of more to come?
RSBN’s suspension comes just two weeks after YouTube reinstated Trump’s official YouTube page following a more than two-year suspension. YouTube lifted the suspension after determining the real-world risk of violence tied to the former president’s account no longer outweighed the importance of hearing the now-presidential candidate’s voice. YouTube’s decisions followed in the footsteps of similar reinstatements Meta and Twitter before it.
Trump, meanwhile, has shown no signs of letting up on his election denial rhetoric and other potentially harmful speech that got him booted off the major platforms in the first place. With his 2024 presidential campaign gaining traction and his recent New York arrest likely to inflame right-wing commentary even further, it seems all too likely other right-wing outlets could face suspensions similar to RSNBs. If that happens, it could reinvigorate conservative lawmakers who have made perceived tech censorship a major policy issue for 2023.