The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski joins Cam & Co to talk about the recent strikes levied by YouTube against a number of gun vloggers, as well as the recent decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidating a federal prohibition on firearms possession for those under a domestic violence restraining order.
While the tech giant says those actions were a mistake, Gutowski says the intentionally vague policies of many social media outlets are likely to continue to ensnare 2A influencers going forward.
“I think a lot of people are left with confusion and distrust,” Gutowski says, adding that it’s not even entirely clear why YouTube reversed the decision to go after videos that featured silencers being attached to firearms.
“Maybe it was a genuine mistake, though it seems to be more systematic than that. Obviously these large companies have huge moderation teams, and there are a lot of layers to them, so maybe some middle layer made the decision and then when they started receiving complaints and media questions a higher up was like, ‘never mind, this is a bad idea.’ It’s hard to know exactly. Maybe they’re worried about congressional hearings, which is another factor now. There’s also a law in Texas that’s a new approach that tries to force companies to change their moderation policies by law, opening them up to liability.”
As Gutowski points out, YouTube’s policies on firearms use are already pretty strict, but they’re also somewhat vague in some respects; something that Gutowski says is intentional on the part of the company and other social media platforms.
“The argument goes if they tell you exactly what the rules are, then bad actors will find a way to get around them,” Gutowski tells Bearing Arms. “There’s kind of a parallel there between content moderation policies and a lot of gun control laws; the ‘loophole’ argument, that if you’re following rules that some people don’t like, then you’re exploiting a loophole. So that’s kind of the idea at the core of a lot of these policies.”
Of course, the more vague the policy the easier it is for someone to unintentionally violate it, which in the case of YouTube’s “mistaken” crackdown led to a number of big channels from content producers like SilencerCo, Ammoland, and Recoil Magazine being taken down, even though they were later restored. And Gutowski says he doesn’t anticipate YouTube or other social media platforms from making any big changes that would benefit gun vloggers and 2A content creators… at least not without lawmakers providing compelling reasons to do so.
Ivan Loomis, whose channel Kit Badger was completely removed during the ordeal, said things still aren’t back to normal.
“My channel just came back yesterday,” he told The Reload, “With a new strike, so I can’t upload for another week or two…”
He said he was “conflicted” over the situation and is waiting to see how the site handles things moving forward. But he suggested government action might be necessary, something Texas is already attempting with its novel social media “censorship” law.
“I think big picture, there probably needs to be a conversation about whether or not YouTube is a Utility,” Loomis said, articulating a point of view increasing popular among Republicans and conservatives unhappy with large tech companies’ moderation practices. “Barring that, it is probably time for YouTube to pick one, a Platform or a Publisher and get their feet held to the fire.”
In the meantime, content creators that regularly feature firearms are looking for other distribution channels with clearer policies, but the trade off is that none of them have anywhere close to the reach of YouTube. It’s a conundrum with no easy answers, at least as long as the right to keep and bear arms is treated with suspicion by Big Tech.
Be sure to check out the entire conversation with The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski in the video window below, which also includes his take on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision and what, if anything, the Supreme Court might have to say when the case reaches its doorstep. I always appreciate Stephen’s insight, and I look forward to welcoming him back in the near future.