Political Influence of Online Platforms: YouTube’s Place in European Politics

  • Юрий Колотаев Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, Российская Федерация, 199034, Санкт-Петербург, Университетская наб., 7–9 https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8372-1193
  • Konrad Kollnig University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QD, United Kingdom


Social media platforms are today one of the primary means of political expression and campaigning. The growing entanglement of politics with the online sphere raises interest in how these new types of media shape the social and political reality. While previous research tends to focus on Twitter and Facebook, limited works exists on the political influence of YouTube. This is even though YouTube is the second-most visited website and provides unique ways of engaging users and disseminating political messages through the combination of rich communication functionality with immersive audio-visual media content. Unfortunately, the influence of social media platforms such as YouTube on politics is difficult to analyse, due a lack of transparency and qualitative data. Independent researchers and the public have limited ways to access meaningful statistics about the video service.

This article derives a taxonomy to classify YouTube’s ways of political influence from a case-study-driven analysis of YouTube in the European political landscape. Our taxonomy aligns with traditional theoretical concepts from media effects theory, particularly framing, priming and agenda-setting. We provide a brief discussion of the current regulatory landscape in the EU, and highlight gaps that might need improvement. We conclude by considering the question of whether YouTube is a political actor.

Ключевые слова:

YouTube, social media, online platform, European Union, content moderation, political content


Данные скачивания пока недоступны.


“Fiction is outperforming reality”: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth, February 02, 2018. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/02/how-youtubes-algorithm-distorts-truth (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Stein, L. (2013), Policy and Participation on Social Media: The Cases of YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia: Policy and Participation on Social Media, Communication, Culture & Critique, vol. 6, is. 3, pp. 353–371.

YouTube’s algorithms might radicalise people — but the real problem is we’ve no idea how they work, January 21, 2020. Available at: http://theconversation.com/youtubes-algorithms-might-radicalise-people-but-the-real-problem-is-weve-no-idea-how-they-work-129955 (accessed: 13.01.2021).

The trouble with YouTube, August 31, 2006. Available at: https://www.economist.com/business/2006/08/31/the-trouble-with-youtube (accessed: 13.01.2021).

YouTube politics, June 25, 2007. Available at: https://www.economist.com/united-states/2007/06/25/youtube-politics (accessed: 13.01.2021).

YouTube launches online EU elections channel, May 6, 2009. Available at: https://www.euractiv.com/section/languages-culture/news/youtube-launches-online-eu-elections-channel/ (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Gillespie, T. (2010), The politics of ‘platforms’, New Media & Society, vol. 12, is. 3, pp. 347–364.

Ricke, L. (2016), The Impact of Youtube on U.S. Politics. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Launching YouTube for Government, October 2, 2014. Available at: https://publicpolicy.googleblog.com/2014/10/launching-youtube-for-government.html (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Ridout, T.N. et al. (2015), Politics as Usual? When and Why Traditional Actors Often Dominate YouTube Campaigning, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, vol. 12, is. 3, pp. 237–251.

Helberger, N. (2020), How Current Attempts to Regulate Misinformation Amplify Opinion Power, Digital Journalism, vol. 8, is. 6, pp. 842–854.

How YouTube supports elections, February 03, 2020. Available at: https://blog.youtube/news-and-events/how-youtube-supports-elections/ (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Are Facebook and YouTube quasi-governmental actors?, August 7, 2018. Available at: https://www.economist.com/democracy-in-america/2018/08/07/are-facebook-and-youtube-quasi-governmental-actors (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Scheufele, D.A. (1999), Framing as a theory of media effects, Journal of Communication, vol. 49, is. 1, pp. 103–122.

Pan, Z. and Kosicki, G.M. (1997), Priming and Media Impact on the Evaluations of the President’s Performance, Communication Research, vol. 24, is. 1, pp. 3–30.

Brewer, P.R., Graf, J. and Willnat, L. (2003), Priming or Framing: Media Influence on Attitudes Toward Foreign Countries, Gazette (Leiden, Netherlands), no. 65 (6), pp. 493–508.

Scheufele, D.A. and Tewksbury, D. (2007), Framing, Agenda Setting, and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models, Journal of Communication, vol. 57, is. 1, pp. 9–20.

Entman, R.M. (2007), Framing Bias: Media in the Distribution of Power, Journal of Communication, vol. 57, is. 1, pp. 163–173.

Fairclough, N. (1995), Media discourse. London: Arnold.

Eilders, C. (2000), Media as political actors? Issue focusing and selective emphasis in the German quality press, German Politics, vol. 9, is. 3, pp. 181–206.

Klinger, U. and Svensson, J. (2015), Network Media Logic: Some Conceptual Considerations, in Bruns, A. et al. (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics. New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 23–38.

Enli, G. S. and Skogerbø, E. (2013), Personalized Campaigns in Party-Centred Politics. Information, Communication & Society, vol. 16, is. 5, pp. 757–774.

Klinger, U. (2013), Mastering the Art of Social Media, Information, Communication & Society, vol. 16, is. 5, pp. 717–736.

Shirky, C. (2011), The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change, Foreign Affairs, vol. 90, is. 1, pp. 28–41.

Page, B.I. (1996), The Mass Media as Political Actors, PS: Political Science and Politics, vol. 29, is. 1, pp. 20–24.

Entman, R.M. (1993), Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm, Journal of Communication, vol. 43, is. 4, pp. 51–58.

Olson, M. (2003), The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, 21. printing. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Gilens, M. and Page, B.I. (2014), Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Perspectives on Politics, vol. 12, is. 3, pp. 564–581.

My final letter in 2019: Updates for this year, November 21, 2019. Available at: https://blog.youtube/inside-youtube/my-final-letter-in-2019/ (accessed: 13.01.2021).

A final update on our priorities for 2018, October 22, 2018. Available at: https://blog.youtube/inside-youtube/a-final-update-on-our-priorities-for/ (accessed: 13.01.2021).

A bitter fight between YouTube and the EU could have major implications for US tech regulation, December 27, 2018. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/youtube-battle-with-the-eu-could-have-major-implications-for-us-tech-regulation-2018-12 (accessed: 13.01.2021).

How YouTube makes users lobby in-house against copyright directive, December 7, 2018. Available at: https://www.euractiv.com/section/digital/news/how-youtube-makes-users-lobby-in-house-against-copyright-directive/ (accessed: 13.01.2021).

How Political Ads and Video Content Influence Voter Opinion, March 2016. Available at: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-strategies/video/political-ads-video-content-influence-voter-opinion/ (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Dobber, T., Fathaigh, R.Ó. and Borgesius, F.J.Z. (2019), The regulation of online political microtargeting in Europe, Internet Policy Review, vol. 8, is. 4, https://doi.org/10.14763/2019.4.1440

YouTube’s advertising policy, June 13, 2017. Available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2017-003926_EN.html (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Answer to Question No E-003926/17, September 15, 2017. Available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2017-003926-ASW_EN.html (accessed: 13.01.2021).

YouTube, the Great Radicalize,. March 10, 2018. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/opinion/sunday/youtube-politics-radical.html (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Lewis, R. (2018), Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube. Data & Society Research Institute. Available at: https://datasociety.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/DS_Alternative_Influence.pdf (accessed: 18.01.2021).

Abul-Fottouh, D., Song, M.Y. and Gruzd, A. (2020), Examining algorithmic biases in YouTube’s recommendations of vaccine videos, International Journal of Medical Informatics, vol. 140, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2020.104175

About YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/intl/en-GB/about/ (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Google to hire thousands of moderators after outcry over YouTube abuse videos, December 5, 2017. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/dec/04/google-youtube-hire-moderators-child-abuse-videos (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Social media’s struggle with self-censorship, October 22, 2020. Available at: https://www.economist.com/briefing/2020/10/22/social-medias-struggle-with-self-censorship (accessed: 13.01.2021).

YouTube expands fact-checking feature for video searches to Europe, September 24, 2020. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/24/youtube-expands-fact-checking-feature-for-video-searches-to-europe.html (accessed: 13.01.2021).

French blogger claims YouTube tried to censor Juncker interview, September 19, 2016. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/19/french-blogger-claims-youtube-tried-to-censor-juncker-interview (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Press release on YouTube removing the accounts of Krym 24 TV Channel and Anna News and News Front news agencies, May 20, 2020. Available at: https://www.mid.ru/maps/us/-/asset_publisher/unVXBbj4Z6e8/content/id/4133893 (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Kolotaev, Y. and Kollnig, K. (2020), Perceptions of YouTube’s political influence. Available at: https://arxiv.org/abs/2012.07745 (accessed: 19.01.2021).

Kolotaev, Y. and Kollnig, K. (2019), YouTube: A New Age For Political Campaigning?, The Oxford Student. Available at: https://www.oxfordstudent.com/2019/10/29/youtube-a-new-age-for-political-campaigning/ (accessed: 19.01.2021).

I warned in 2018 YouTube was fueling far-right extremism. Here’s what the platform should be doing. December 11, 2020. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/dec/11/youtube-islamophobia-christchurch-shooter-hate-speech (accessed: 13.01.2021).

Lynskey, O. (2019), Grappling with “Data Power”: Normative Nudges from Data Protection and Privacy, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, vol. 20, is. 1, pp. 189–220.

Binns, R. and Bietti, E. (2020), Dissolving privacy, one merger at a time: Competition, data and third party tracking, Computer Law & Security Review, vol. 36, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clsr.2019.105369

Competition and Markets Authority. Online platforms and digital advertising: Market study final report, July 1, 2020. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5efc57ed3a6f4023d242ed56/Final_report_1_July_2020_.pdf (accessed: 18.01.2021).

Как цитировать
Колотаев, Ю., & Kollnig, K. (2021). Political Influence of Online Platforms: YouTube’s Place in European Politics. Вестник Санкт-Петербургского университета. Международные отношения, 14(2), 225-240. https://doi.org/10.21638/spbu06.2021.206
Актуальные проблемы европейской политики