In late March this year, YouTube waded into the gun control fray by quietly announcing a change in its policy regarding firearms-related content. Though the site already prohibited direct sale of firearms, they gave gun vloggers one month to tailor their videos to the new guidelines or get out.
In late March this year, YouTube waded into the gun control fray by quietly announcing a change in its policy regarding firearms-related content. Though the site already prohibited direct sale of firearms, they gave gun vloggers one month to tailor their videos to the new guidelines or get out:
YouTube prohibits certain kinds of content featuring firearms. Specifically, we don’t allow content that:
- Intends to sell firearms or certain firearms accessories through direct sales (e.g., private sales by individuals) or links to sites that sell these items. These accessories include but may not be limited to accessories that enable a firearm to simulate automatic fire or convert a firearm to automatic fire (e.g., bump stocks, Gatling triggers, drop-in auto sears, conversion kits), and high capacity magazines (i.e., magazines or belts carrying more than 30 rounds).
- Provides instructions on manufacturing a firearm, ammunition, high capacity magazine, homemade silencers/suppressors, or certain firearms accessories such as those listed above. This also includes instructions on how to convert a firearm to automatic or simulated automatic firing capabilities.
- Shows users how to install the above-mentioned accessories or modifications.
In short order, the policy, which was to take effect in April, met harsh opposition. A few channels were suspended within days of the announcement despite the grace period, such as Spike’s Tactical. Though the channel was restored and YouTube claimed that its suspension was a “mistake,” the issue became more ludicrous when firearms video producers began to migrate their content towards sites with more freedom of expression, such as PornHub, in an amusing nose-thumbing move at YouTube.
Pro-gun activists see the new policy as vague, open to arbitrary enforcement, and overreaching to the point of censorship. Though they acknowledge that Google, the parent of YouTube, is a private entity free to enforce its own rules, those opposed to the firearm rules feel that free speech is a desirable trait within all platforms and that the policy usurps that ideal in a blatantly lopsided fashion.
Another (undeniably correct) criticism of the policy is that it was very clearly written without consulting gun experts. Phrases like “simulate automatic fire” betray the political underpinnings of the rule and those who wrote it. A better term (and a more enforceable and concrete one) would mention a specific rate of fire, or particular features that facilitate the discharge of a weapon at a rapid rate. Shaky weapons terminology permeates the ranks of gun control advocates who often use a sort of ad hominem attack to discredit those who correct their phrasing and then demand gun legislation based on the misconception. Naturally, gun enthusiasts are perturbed that the best-known video site for sharing knowledge has fallen into that same trap; their sometimes-expert content governed by those who wouldn’t know the difference between a Glock 17 vs 19.
And, that isn’t all that this new rule mirrors. Gun control activists have been calling for the crippling of the NRA by demanding politicians stop taking money from the organization, supporters stop giving money, and affiliated companies break those ties. It’s difficult to deny that Mainstream Media and most tech companies are left-dominated, and staunch believers in the Second Amendment are enduring another round of toe-stepping by yet another tech giant for their beliefs.
Also non-debatable is the fact that the new policy is hypocritical. The goal of the policy, ostensibly, is to increase public safety. However, the videos that people find are experts modeling proper safety techniques as well as advocating responsible ownership of firearms. In contrast, YouTube makes no efforts to remove dangerous videos like those that warn parents against vaccines, and other disastrous health advice.
The only content that YouTube removed wholesale before the new policy was child porn and outright terrorism. One can sympathize with vloggers who feel their AR-15 tutorial was unfairly lumped into the same “no-go” label as those other categories. Besides the removal of those videos, YouTube (via Google) mostly just uses a massive amount of personal data to ensure proper ad-matching.
On top of the strange increase in severity around a genre that is fairly benign or even positive with regards to public safety in the hands of the majority of its viewers, YouTube is involved in another battle that challenges its integrity when it claims that the new rules are safety precautions. The service is currently engaged in a lawsuit for failure to protect the online privacy of children. Though the EULA states that one must be 13 to be on YouTube, they don’t verify that, and subsequently do not take reasonable measures to ensure the security of children on the platform.
Immediately, one looks to politics to root out the cause of the ramp-up in the firearm policy. Google is a left-leaning organization, but donates fairly evenly to campaigns (54% to Democrats, 45% to Republicans), hopefully ruling out extreme backroom deals in the U.S. Legislature. Instead, Google seems to be giving in to the will of the vocal majority in removal of dissenting views and information. Chemist Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Unfortunately, when it is easier for a large portion of society to fear something, they will instead try to squash out understanding to win the day.