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YouTube Places New Age Restrictions on Gun Content

If fully enforced, the policies will make it harder for gun makers to market firearms to minors through YouTube

YouTube has updated its policies to place tighter restrictions on firearm content. When the changes go into effect on June 18, 2024, viewers under the age of 18 should no longer be able to watch videos showcasing ghost guns, fully automatic weapons or the parts used to create them, high-capacity magazines, or silencers. To learn more about these deadly innovations, click here.

Further, while YouTube already states that it prohibits content showing people how to build ghost guns or convert firearms into machine guns, the site plans to prohibit videos that provide “instructions on how to remove certain firearm safety devices, such as a device that limits the release of a magazine.”

Before carrying out the May 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, the shooter cited several YouTube videos in his racist diatribe and Discord “diary” that taught him how to remove the magazine lock on his otherwise state-compliant Bushmaster AR-15, which had limited the rifle to one 10-round magazine, and install a standard AR-style magazine release. With this alteration, the shooter was able to load and reload his rifle with several high-capacity magazines in rapid succession.

Everytown for Gun Safety has repeatedly asked YouTube to strengthen its content moderation practices in letters and reports, and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg recently sent a letter to YouTube raising concerns over the platform hosting instruction gun-building videos and pushing firearms content to children. Regarding the changes, a YouTube spokesperson said, “We regularly review our guidelines and consult with outside experts to make sure we are drawing the line at the right place.”

The Effect on the Gun Industry

For years, the firearms industry has used YouTube as an unofficial marketing arm. While the site prohibits direct sales of weapons, many gun makers have their own YouTube channels to showcase their products, and companies often work with influencers — nicknamed “GunTubers” — who provide glowing reviews of their products, often without disclosing that they’re paid for them or receive free or discounted products and all-expenses-paid trips to media events, training academies, and hunting opportunities.

But, if properly enforced, YouTube’s content policy changes could make it harder for influencers to reach children and teens — especially considering the vast number of videos featuring fully automatic firearms or high-capacity magazines currently on YouTube. The update could also make it more difficult for those intent on harm to reconfigure firearms to make them deadlier, as happened in Buffalo.

In light of the news, Gun Owners of America (GOA), a far-right gun group that opposes all firearm regulations and counts many gun companies as “partners,” issued a statement condemning the “radical anti-gun policy at YouTube.” GOA Senior Vice President Erich Pratt claimed, “Restricting access to adults only — for content that depicts wholly legal and constitutionally-protected activity — is wrong, and it aims to push a sinister narrative to minors that firearms are evil.” But many videos currently on YouTube are not “wholly legal.” For example, converting a firearm into an unregistered machine gun is indeed a felony, as is building and selling an unserialized ghost gun.

Notably, GOA sponsored a recent awards ceremony for some of the internet’s most toxic GunTubers, where Pratt told the audience, “I want you all to know that all of us at GOA truly appreciate what you content creators do. You guys entertain, you educate, and you activate. And that last part I especially appreciate.”

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