Do YouTubers Have An Obligation To Get Their Audience To Vote?

By Steve Higgins
June 08, 2017 7:37 AM

So today is the day that the British public head to polls to vote in the General Election and as always there are plenty of YouTubers trying to encourage their subscribers to vote but does someone who's considered to be an influencer have an obligation to teach their audience the importance of voting and encourage younger people to vote?

This year, YouTube are running the campaign #PowerToDecide ahead of the June 8th election, they've asked prominent Creators on their platform to create videos with the aim of getting the number of registered voters up, especially amongst younger voters. Very commendable.

However, about a year ago I was at a YouTube event where one small mid-sized YouTuber gave a talk on how he uses his channel to educate his audience on topics like sexuality and equality, but mostly the importance of voting. He went on to say that "anyone with a following should be using their influence to educate people about the importance of voting."

This just struck me as incredibly worthy of him. His channel is about the same size as mine in terms of views and subscribers, so essentially he was saying I should be using my videos to promote an interest in the General Election, but should I?

I think it's a bit of a sweeping generalisation to say that every YouTuber should be tackling topics like sexuality and politics. I make videos for entertainment purposes, that's all they are... just for fun. When you watch BBC they cover the election in full during news and current affairs shows, you wouldn't expect Ian Beale to pop up halfway through 'Eastenders' and say "remember to vote on June 8th!"

Sometimes it's OK just to make content for entertainment purposes and let's face it, the BBC news and current affairs teams should be able to do a better job of encouraging young voters to get involved than the BBC Drama department. In the same way as a vlogger who has gained a following by talking about social issues has much more sway and influence on these kind of topics than me, who makes what it basically transient, pointless nothingness.

It's not just my content that doesn't make me a very good fit for political content, but the fact that less than 10% of my YouTube views come from within the UK so really any British political message I try to deliver would be falling on deaf ears. No one can expect me to promote or show any real interest in the political situation in the USA where 85% of my views come from.

On top of this, my videos are popular with children and young teens, most of my audience is below the voting age. Me including an encouragement to vote in a video would be the same as Peppa Pig telling people to vote. So, while I fully support YouTube's campaign to push political awareness and respect those YouTubers who use their platform to push a positive message, there's a time and a place for education and it's not an obligation for any content creator to get involved, but having said that if you can without it being jarring, then you should.

The guy sat next to me in this talk made zombie videos, I can't imagine he took this opinion very seriously either. I've seen a few of his videos since and not once has a zombie bit someone and the victim has looked at the camera and with their dying breath said "register to vote before... ugh."

Let's face it, could I really get the message across about voting as well as Huffington Post did? Check out their video below.

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