Update: YouTube Implements More Gun Content Restrictions

    As an update to yesterday’s post regarding YouTube’s decision to permanently demonetize some smaller gun-related YouTube channels, now it seems YouTube will become the arbiter of what constitutes safe gun handling [from their offices in San Francisco].

    If you didn’t see yesterday’s article, of course, go read it, but the crux of that story is that a number of gun YouTubers received the following email from YouTube this week:
    This story continues to develop – in an interesting turn. Our own Andrew B., who runs ballistics channel “The Chopping Block” (https://www.youtube.com/user/chopinbloc) alongside his involvement with TFBTV received this email from YouTube yesterday:
    In pertinent part, the email reads (emphasis added):

    We want to help keep people safe both online and offline, so we don’t allow the promotion of weapons-related content that may lead to damage, harm, or injury. For this reason, ads may not be placed on videos that feature modified, 3D-printed or DIY weapons and ammunition, or provide instruction on how to obtain any of these. Videos that facilitate the sale of firearms or their modifications or otherwise provides instruction on how to obtain or build them are no longer monetizable on YouTube.

    Furthermore, videos featuring firearm use can only take place in appropriately safe and controlled environments such as shooting ranges in order to monetize. You may not monetize videos depicting improper usage of guns. For more information please visit: https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/1348688?hl=en#Weapon-related_content

    Now, you can remove these if you wishes to run ads on your videos, so we can take another review on your videos.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    So, YouTube appears to have informally implemented a new, unspoken policy (i.e., I could not find this in the content guidelines) whereby it will demonetize videos which aren’t shot in a “controlled environment” such as a “shooting range.”
    This raises a lot of questions, not the least of which is:
    • How does YouTube determine what usage is improper? Is there someone at YouTube with proper training on safe gun handling who will implement these policies?*
    • How will they know when someone is in a “controlled environment” or not, and who has the authority to reach that conclusion?
    • Is a shooting range, in fact, safer and more “controlled” than the creator’s private property such that this policy needs to be implemented, to begin with?
    • Who do you think you are?
    • What gives you right?
    Obviously, in order to estimate the impact of this new policy, one would want to know the answers to these questions, among many others.
    I wouldn’t plan on this being enforced in a sensible manner. Andrew is an Army vet and a shooting professional. He films his videos at shooting ranges. Yet YouTube is expressly applying this new policy to Andrew’s content, notwithstanding his strict compliance therewith.
    So the bad news is that it looks like YouTube will now use the discharge of a firearm outside of a “controlled environment” (how ever that would be determined, I don’t know) as a pretext to demonetize gun videos.
    The good news is that like pretty much all of YouTube gun policy so far, this new unspoken rule will almost certainly be arbitrarily and capriciously applied by whoever is wearing the video reviewer hat at YouTube on any given day.
    Rather than rehash, I direct the foreseeable questions as to why gun channels like TFBTV haven’t fled YouTube yet to the last couple of paragraphs from my article yesterday.
    As far as Andrew’s comments about the situation:
    A lot of folks have rightly pointed out that I’m not entitled to YouTube ad share revenue. To be clear, the reason that I’m unhappy with the current situation is less about money and more about the suppression of wrongthink. If all it meant was that I got less money from YouTube, that would be fine; I make less than $30/mo from them anyway. But demonetization causes the algorithm to recommend videos dramatically less. That means that YouTube is putting its thumb on the scale of free expression, quieting voices with ideas they don’t like. Whether that is, or should be, legal is a complicated issue, but it is absolutely wrong and counter to American values.
    *(lolol, no…no there isn’t)
    James Reeves

    • NRA-licensed concealed weapons instructor, 2012-present
    Maxim Magazine’s MAXIMum Warrior, 2011
    • TFBTV Executive Producer
    • Former Regional Sales Rep, Interstate Arms Corp., MA
    • Champion, Key West Cinco De Mayo Taco Eating Competition
    • GLOCK® Certified Pistol Operator, 2017-2022
    • Lawyer
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