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Canada Blog

Public Policy

How We’re Supporting the 2021 Federal Election

With the latest federal election being called for September 20, 2021, many Canadians will now be turning to Google and YouTube to find the timeliest news and election updates. In the 2019 federal election, for example, Canadians took to Google to find critical information, with the latest civic polling data, information regarding how to register to vote, and polling station locations being the top election-related searches. 

Given the importance of accurate election information, we recognize that Google and YouTube have a role to play in helping connect Canadians to authoritative information and reducing the spread of misinformation. That’s why Google and YouTube support the Declaration of Online Electoral Integrity, which aims to safeguard the digital accessibility of accurate, trusted and up-to-date election information, for all Canadians. Since our earliest days, we have been committed to supporting democratic processes around the world which is why we’ve had Community Guidelines on YouTube and Content Policies for Google Search, which govern what videos or content are allowed, or will be surfaced, on the platform, and which we rigorously enforce. 

Google Search - Connecting Canadians to useful and authoritative information 
We fundamentally design our Search systems to prioritize relevant information from credible sources. We see billions of search queries every day, so we take an unbiased approach to delivering information that is both relevant and reliable. We also provide useful features, which not only make authoritative information easily accessible, but also helps users understand the information they find in Google Search. In order to ensure we’re providing the most helpful information, we have a set of policies that apply to our Google Search features, such as featured snippets, Autocomplete and Knowledge Panels

The quality of Google Search is safeguarded by evaluations from search quality raters, who train and test our systems. Search quality raters orient our rankings around delivering high-quality information, particularly for important topics relating to a user’s wellbeing and livelihood, such as health and civics information. We have definitions in our publicly-available Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which outline the characteristics of web pages that may aim to mislead users, promote hate, or otherwise deliver low-quality information; these guidelines define what constitutes high-quality information. 

For topics regarding health, finance, or civics, where authoritative information is crucial, we place an even greater emphasis on the digital signals of expertise and authoritativeness. This way, we can have greater confidence that the information appearing at the top of the results page is trusted information. 

YouTube - A platform for authoritative content 
On YouTube, over the last couple years we’ve significantly increased our investments in the systems and processes that enable us to effectively remove violative videos, raise up authoritative content, and reduce the spread of borderline content, all while offering an open platform for healthy political discourse. Our Community Guidelines do not allow misleading claims about voting, nor do they allow any content that encourages interference in the democratic process. In addition, we have established policies prohibiting hate speech, harassment, deceptive practices and incitement to violence. For example, under our violent or graphic content policy, we remove content inciting others to commit violent acts against individuals, or a group of persons, at voting locations. Under our voter suppression policy, we remove content falsely claiming mail-in ballots have been manipulated to change the results of an election. We consistently enforce our policies regardless of political viewpoints, or whoever may express those viewpoints. Any content that provides sufficient educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic context is allowed on YouTube. 

The removal of violative content is just one of the ways we protect the YouTube community. Fast-moving events, like elections, may produce unverified claims, which can then lead to uncertainty. Providing viewers with accurate information is critical in moments like this, which is why we work to raise up authoritative election-related information and reduce the spread of harmful election-related misinformation

Federal Election Information and the Canada Elections Act 

To help you learn more about participating in the democratic process, we’ll continue to promote links to timely, relevant information. Prior to Election Day, Canadians will be able to watch live streams of the official federal leaders’ debates on YouTube. On Election Day, you’ll be able to find a link on the YouTube and homepages directing you to information from Elections Canada on how and where to vote. Then, as polls close, on YouTube you’ll see a selection of live streams of election night coverage from authoritative news partners so that, as in previous elections, you can come to YouTube throughout the evening to watch Election Night unfold. 

And we’ll continue to elevate authoritative sources, including news publishers like Global News and Radio-Canada, for election-related news and information queries, in Google Search results and YouTube’s Breaking News and Top News shelves. And our recommendations systems will also continue limiting the spread of harmful election-related misinformation and borderline content.

Per Google’s existing policy, we will not accept election advertising on our platforms during a federal election period regulated by the Canada Elections Act. We first implemented this policy following the changes put in place by Bill C-76 for the 2019 election. 

Our teams will be working around the clock, to make sure we have the systems and policies in place to prevent any abuse of our systems, and to provide consistent access to authoritative information this election season. We remain vigilant and are committed to maintaining the important balance of openness and responsibility, on Election Day, and beyond. 

See you at the polls, Canada!