Gun-rights groups on Friday criticized the video sharing website YouTube for its new policy banning videos showcasing legal gun activity.
YouTube, which is reeling from its decision to demonetize many of the creators on its platform and its own algorithm promoting bizarre sexualized child abuse videos to millions of viewers, decided this week it would censor all videos that depict the legal assembling or modifying of firearms or which link to websites that sell firearms. The site had already banned the channel of firearms manufacturer Spike's Tactical before later reinstating it. The site described the new bans as a routine change of guidelines.
"We routinely make updates and adjustments to our enforcement guidelines across all of our policies," a YouTube spokeswoman told Bloomberg Technology. "While we've long prohibited the sale of firearms, we recently notified creators of updates we will be making around content promoting the sale or manufacture of firearms and their accessories."
Gun-rights groups described the move as politically-motivated censorship.
"YouTube is now in the business of political posturing and censorship," Chris Cox, head of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. "Millions of Americans watch YouTube videos every day to learn more about the safe and responsible use of firearms, and those videos show law-abiding gun owners participating in lawful behavior. By banning this content, YouTube is engaging in politically motivated censorship and alienating the millions of people who turn to the website for education and training. Currently, anyone can go to YouTube and watch a video to learn how to make a bomb, yet the company wants to ban videos depicting lawful gun use? It's absurd."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade group, said it is concerned the new policy will target the gun makers and sellers that make up its membership.
"YouTube's announcement this week of a new firearms content policy is troubling," the group said in a message to its membership. "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."
They said the actions amount to an attack on the Second Amendment.
"Much like Facebook, YouTube now acts as a virtual public square," the group said. "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 group asked its members to reach out to YouTube and express their concerns with the policy change.
"Tell YouTube that this new policy is a cause for concern," it said. "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."
The National Rifle Association said the policy is evidence of YouTube's anti-gun politics. "This new policy runs counter to the American traditions of open dialogue and tolerance for diverse opinions and firmly plants YouTube, and its parent company Google, against the freedoms so many Americans hold dear."