Along with all main media sources in the world today, the National Shooting Sport Foundation has diffused a newsletter in which expresses concern about the recent new rule that YouTube has introduced to control "certain kind" of videos dealing with firearms.
But the question is: is this really the way big Social Media intend to protect our society from the dangers of Violence and Terrorism?
YouTube’s New Policy Provides Cause for Concern
YouTube’s announcement this week of a new firearms content policy is troubling. We suspect it will be interpreted to block much more content than the stated goal of firearms and certain accessory sales. Especially worrisome is the potential for blocking educational content that serves an instructional and skill-building purpose. YouTube’s policy announcement has also served to invite political activists to flood their review staff with complaints about any video to which they may proffer manufactured outrage.
Much like Facebook, YouTube now acts as a virtual public square. The exercise of what amounts to censorship, then, can legitimately be viewed as the stifling of commercial free speech, which has constitutional protection. Such actions also impinge on the Second Amendment.
The YouTube policies concerning firearm-related websites were recently updated in what gun rights advocate consider to be a willfully vague and encompassing language that could lead in a short amount of time to a ban from YouTube of almost every, if not all, firearm-related video and channel.
The most recent modification, titled "Policies on content featuring firearms", reads as follows:
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 what we see as a parallel situation, Facebook has repeatedly shut down the pages of legitimate and reputable firearms retailers that were following Facebook’s own rules. The interpretation depended on the reviewers, the vast majority of whom have little familiarity with our business practices, let alone our products, and many of whom do not even do their work from American soil.
Both First and Second Amendment rights are essential to the liberty we enjoy as American citizens. In a very real sense, the de facto curtailment of First Amendment right of its firearm related business users, YouTube is edging toward simultaneously infringing upon the Second Amendment rights of the customers of these affected businesses.
Commerce in Firearms is Essential
As Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in his 36-page opinion, “Our forefathers recognized that the prohibition of commerce in firearms worked to undermine the right to keep and bear arms.”
This argument can be logically extended to social media platforms. It is time that social media platform management realizes its broader collective responsibility since it commands so much of today’s virtual public square. Suppressing the expression of First Amendment protected political speech and of commercial speech is wrong, even if they think they are acting in the public interest. The resulting impingement of lawful commerce in firearms that brings with it the infringement of Second Amendment rights is equally wrong and it should stop.
Tell YouTube that this new policy is a cause for concern. Ask that its implementation and review process be fair, fully informed and respectful of your business. Please be polite and remember that the person on the other end will likely know little about firearms. Provide comments directly to YouTube.
YouTube is a private company operating on United States ground.
The world community of law abiding sport shooters and gun enthusiasts – and the community of "youtubers" and videomakers alike – hope that such extreme and unjustified behaviour from a private company against the civil rights and liberty of expression of millions of individuals will not be disregarded by the Supreme Court of the United States, if and when such facts will arrive on the proper desks. As it should be.
And a BIG question pops up in our minds:
AFTER ITS DECISION TO BAN "CERTAIN VIDEOS",
WILL YOUTUBE RETURN ALL THE MONEY
THAT IN THE MEANWHILE YOUTUBE ITSELF HAS EARNED
OUT OF THE BILLIONS OF ACCESSES AND VIEWS
GENERATED BY THE GUN VIDEOS THEY WANT TO BAN?
This is not the proper way to fight illegal guns and illegal misuse of the same.
We truly hope that the United States Government will find a way to clarify what is useful and legally justifiable, against such irrational decisions.