Thursday afternoon, Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani called a press conference and rambled uninterrupted about every possible election conspiracy theory we’ve seen over the last few weeks. While this was happening, YouTube collected direct payments from conspiracy theorists, who paid money to spread their unfounded conspiracies in the live chats.
In 2017, YouTube launched a feature called “Super Chats & Super Stickers,” which allow YouTube viewers to pay to pin comments at the top of livestream comment boxes. The payment is collected by YouTube. Roughly 70 percent of the fee collected goes to the channel’s owner, and YouTube keeps 30 percent of the fee.
“Super chat and super stickers let you tap into a new revenue stream and better connect with your fans during livestreams,” YouTube said in a video announcing the feature. “The bigger the purchase amount, the more the message stands out and the longer it stays at the top of the chat feed.”
One stream of Giuliani’s speech was featured on the official Donald Trump YouTube channel (which was promoted by YouTube on the platform's homepage). On that stream, comments were turned off. But on another feed featured on the channel “Right Side Broadcasting Network,” live chat, Super Chat, and Super Stickers were turned on. Throughout Giuliani’s unhinged speech, YouTube users from around the world paid money to spout conspiracy theories, which were then prominently featured to the more than 200,000 people who were watching the Right Side Broadcasting Network stream. Both Right Side Broadcasting Network and YouTube profited from conspiracy theory-laden Super Chats.
“HOW IS THIS HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES? THERE IS MORE EVIDENCE! GEORGE SOROS CONNECTION, BIDEN’S? CHINESE CONNECTIONS! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out,” ContentCopycat commented, paying $10 to do so. This means YouTube roughly got $3 from this conspiracy theory.
“California Voter Fraud. Our elections are rigged. Illegals, & dead voting, Republican ballots never sent, some tossed. Never counted,” Maria Torres said in a $20 Super Chat. YouTube got roughly $6 for promoting this conspiracy theory.
Super Chats like this went on and on, to say nothing of the actual content of the press conference, in which Giuliani and other Trump surrogates talked about unfounded conspiracy theories concerning the Dominion voting machine company, George Soros, ANTIFA, the suspicious bubble-filling-in-prowess of mail-in voters, a Democratic party conspiracy, crooked election officials, dead voters, illegal voters, voters who voted twice, and so-on-and-so-forth, all claims that have so far been laughed out of court, denied by election officials of both parties, and are not supported by any evidence or concern, at most, tens of votes. All the while, revenue from Super Chats was pouring in. In US dollars, British pounds, South African Rand, South Korean Won, Norwegian Kroner, Japanese Yen, and other international currencies.
And so, YouTube is not only failing to tamp down conspiracy theories, it is not only advertising on conspiracy theory-laden videos, but it is collecting direct payments to promote them.
YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.