For those of you who aren’t up to speed on the present state of YouTube: Subsequent to the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, YouTube began semi-arbitrarily enforcing certain unwritten content guidelines relative to bumpstocks and other gun-related content that YouTube deemed to be “offensive”. I expressly use the term “offensive” because, at the time, there were no specific, firearm-related community/content guidelines in place at YouTube. Instead, content was policed under a general, nonspecific “offensive content” guideline, so there was very little in the way of actual guidance for gun channels on YouTube.
However, in March, YouTube announced a new firearms-specific content guideline:
Policies on content featuring firearms
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.
Most guntubers interpreted this as a new set of guidelines, while my personal opinion was that YouTube implemented this guideline to reduce to writing those policies that they had already been enforcing for six months in order to provide a modicum of guidance to channels that were understandably wondering what exactly they were doing in order to trigger takedowns and strikes.
As an aside, a channel receives a “strike” when they upload content that violates a guideline.
What happens if you receive a strike
If a strike is issued, you’ll get an email and see an alert in your account’s Channel Settings with information about why your content was removed (e.g. for sexual content or violence). If you receive a strike, make sure to review the reason your content was removed and learn more in the Policy Center so that it doesn’t happen again.
We understand that users make mistakes and don’t intend to violate our policies — that’s why strikes don’t last forever. Each strike will expire three months after it is issued.
While you have a strike on your account, you may not have access to some features on YouTube. You can see what features are active in your account’s Channel Settings.
Accounts with one strike may be restricted from live streaming.
If you receive more than one strike in the same three-month period, here’s what happens:
Second strike: If your account receives two Community Guidelines strikes within a three-month period, you won’t be able to post new content to YouTube for two weeks. If there are no further issues, full privileges will be restored automatically after the two week period. Each strike will remain on your account and expire separately three months after it was issued.
Third strike: If your account receives three Community Guidelines strikes within a three-month period, your account will be terminated.
Notwithstanding the fact that YouTube now has a memorialized guideline, it seems that enforcement of that “new” guideline is just as arbitrary.
Some of the most professional and sanitary gun channels on YouTube have received strikes or been removed. Our own Bloke on the Range – a channel that exclusively covers antique/C&R style guns – was taken down (and then reinstated and assigned a strike). This is especially alarming because Bloke is a gentleman, a scholar, and a soft-spoken classic gun enthusiast. There’s nary an AR or AK on the Bloke’s page.
Similarly, Chris Bartocci of Small Arms Solutions had his channel removed. Chris is, again, a modest and knowledgeable individual who ran almost a purely educational channel. He has since started a new channel on YouTube.
Brownells, Military Arms Channel, and even TFBTV have been hit by YouTube. As a perfect example of arbitrary enforcement of guidelines, the below video was demonetized by YouTube and “confirmed by manual review” after an appeal. Watch this and tell me if you can identify how it violated the gun-content guideline:
It appears the latest victims are our brothers-in-gun-journalism, The Truth About Guns. Jeremy S.’s channel was most recently hit with an arbitrary strike for a silencer review.
Jeremy published a video comparing three silencers, and it was removed for violating the guideline posted above. It is unclear how his video violates the guideline. Cans from CMMG, Q, and Dead Air are some of the most sophisticated in the industry – far from “homemade silencers” as contemplated by the guideline. So why was the video removed?
While YouTube is not a public space and they can moderate content as they see fit (bear in mind that they have no obligation whatsoever to provide “freedom of speech”), what’s frustrating is that YouTube gives creators no indication whatsoever of how allegedly violative content actually runs afoul of the guidelines. While I respect the rights of property owners’ abilities to make their own rules for their own houses, there’s nothing more frustrating than unfair, arbitrary treatment or accusation without explanation (the concept behind due process and habeas corpus in the law). But that’s the present state of affairs with YouTube.
There are a number of proposed solutions that have been passed around to resolve the issue, but as we sit here today, YouTube is undoubtedly the best way to get eyes on content and earn revenue from it. For the moment, there’s nothing that gives creators the audience and revenue that YouTube does, so notwithstanding YouTube’s capricious treatment of guntubers, it’s unlikely anyone is going anywhere – unless they get banned, of course.
In the meantime, the best solution seems to be Patreon, which is a third-party website unaffiliated with YouTube that allows viewers to support their favorite creators with monthly pledges. In many instances, those creators usually provide something in return for viewer support.
Jeremy’s Patreon is here: https://www.patreon.com/JeremyGunsGear
The Firearm Blog’s Patreon page is at: https://www.patreon.com/tfbtv
And the Bloke on the Range Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BlokeOnTheRange