Disinformation about election fraud is thriving on YouTube, and right-wing outlets that most aggressively push false information are gaining new, conservative viewers on the video service, according to new research.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, has not taken down videos challenging the outcome of the election, including content that spreads false allegations. Instead, the company has said that it is fighting disinformation by elevating authoritative news sources in search results and recommendations, while slowing the spread of so-called borderline content — videos that bump up against its policies but do not violate them.
But data from an independent research project called Transparency Tube found that fringe, right-wing news channels aggressively pushing unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud are gaining a larger share of views among conservative YouTube channels than before the election.
At the same time, Fox News, which has been more reserved in promoting unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election, has seen its share among a conservative audience decline on YouTube even though it is one of YouTube’s promoted, authoritative sources.
“Our data indicates that YouTube’s efforts have had a limited impact on slowing or stopping the spread of election misinformation,” said Sam Clark, one of the researchers behind Transparency Tube. “Despite YouTube’s efforts, channels posting election misinformation have seen an increase in share of traffic.”
In September and October, Fox News’s YouTube channel had about a 17 percent share of all views on what Transparency Tube calls “Partisan Right,” a grouping of more than 2,000 channels with more than 10,000 subscribers focused on politics with a highly critical view of Democrats. In the week of Nov. 5-12, that percentage fell to 13 percent.
Overall, Fox News had 67 million views on YouTube that week, which was less than its average of 77 million views per week in October. A Fox News spokeswoman pointed to ratings from Neilsen indicating that its television ratings had grown by more than 60 percent in the week after the election, compared to the postelection week a year earlier.
“The most popular videos about the election continue to be from authoritative news organizations,” said Andrea Faville, a spokeswoman for YouTube. “A number of factors can influence viewership for channels: for example, a sudden increase in media coverage, attention from public figures or off-platform social sharing.”
Newsmax, which has pushed a wide range of election-related conspiracy theories, lifted its share of total views among conservative channels to 5 percent in the week of Nov. 5-12 from less than 1 percent for September and October. Its most-viewed video during the week was a segment with Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, presenting what he claimed to be evidence of voter fraud.
Similarly, other channels promoting claims of election rigging saw their share grow. The Next News Network, which went viral with a video promoting a falsehood about the vote in Pennsylvania, recorded an increase in share to 2.7 percent after the election from 1.5 percent, while One America News Network lifted its share to 1.5 percent from 0.7 percent before the election.
On the day after the election, an OANN video commentary claimed that Mr. Trump had already won the election and that Democrats were “tossing Republican ballots, harvesting fake ballots and delaying results” to cause confusion.
YouTube said an increase in percentage terms for smaller channels is not indicative of growth overall since a channel like Fox News has such a large base of subscribers.
In response to criticism that it had not done enough to stamp out disinformation, YouTube said 88 percent of the videos in the top 10 results for people searching for election-related content come from high-authority sources. It said that watch times for major news channels like ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, NBC News and MSNBC have more than doubled this year from last year.
YouTube said Newsmax, OANN and The Next News Network are not considered authoritative sources and will not be featured highly in recommendations or search results.
YouTube has also said that it is labeling videos pertaining to election results with a statement that The Associated Press has called the presidential race for Joseph R. Biden Jr. with a link to a Google page featuring the vote count.
However, one YouTube channel falsely claiming proof of widespread election fraud has seen its share of views decline among conservative corners of YouTube: President Trump’s own channel.
Mr. Trump’s YouTube channel saw views quadruple in October from the previous month as his campaign flooded the site with ads to push traffic there. With Google placing a freeze on political ads after the election, views on Mr. Trump’s YouTube channel have declined sharply.