Cracking the social media 2A censorship code?

Earlier this week my colleague John Petrolino wrote about the online censoring of Second Amendment viewpoints that several advocates say they’ve experienced on Instagram. It’s hard to know exactly what’s triggering (no pun intended) the posts being flagged, but it appears to be happening on a regular basis.


Earlier this week, retired U.S. LTC Willes K. Lee, current NRA Board Member and former 1st Vice President of the NRA, posted on Instagram that his content was being censored. In an Instagram post on August 6, 2023 Lee said, “Any article about #DGU & #selfdefense gets flagged. #censor #censorship #herewegoagain.” Lee included a screenshot of warnings that his posts may go against community guidelines.

During our conversation, I had mentioned to Lee that I had seen similar posts about other accounts being censored this week. Gun Owners Radio was one, another small channel that wished to not be named in this piece, and while not connected to Instagram, the Gun Owners’ Action League reported that Linktree axed their account temporarily, before reinstating it. Lee had told me that Dianna Muller, a three gun competitive shooter, and the founder of the DC Project, commented on his post that she was having a #metoo moment as well.

“We’re all leaders who other folks look at,” Lee said, “When Instagram [] censors, hinders, and threatens movement leaders such as the DC Project, GOAL, Gun Owners Radio, and an NRA VP, I can imagine the hassle all firearms supporters endure.” Lee ended by saying, “It’s almost robotic, AI driven. Always four posts at a time, always the start of the month, never explaining what ‘community standard’ is being ‘violated.’ It sure as hell isn’t my community.”

I reached out to Muller to discuss with her what offending content she was hustling over on her page. Two of the flagged pieces of content included one picture of “his and hers” rifles, and a short video of Muller doing some running and then shooting a rifle afterwards.

Muller getting censored like this is something she says happens regularly. I asked her if there was any specific content she thought was being fingered, like in the case of Lee thinking defensive gun uses might be triggering the flag, and she said pretty anything “gun” related is up for grabs. Since the censoring started, Muller said, “I used to reach 350,000 accounts a month. Right now I’m at 19,000. My account status says ‘your content is not affected right now.’ What this means is you are not at risk of losing what you can do [on Instagram].”


One 2A influencer, however, says he’s been able to grow his audience at the same time Second Amendment voices like Muller and Lee are being hushed. Yehuda Remer, better known as “The Pew Pew Jew”, joins me on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to discuss his own experiences and offer some tips on how to get around the shadowbans and algorithmic-based viewpoint discrimination that seems to be happening on Instagram.

Remer says he’s experienced these same limitations himself, but over the past few months he’s grown his followers by several thousand using a few simple tricks.

First, Remer says he stopped posting to Instagram entirely for a couple of weeks. He noticed that towards the end of that period, despite not posting any new content, his follower count started to grow; first by ones-and-twos but increasing substantially even without new content. Remer suspects that hitting the “pause” button on new posts for a while may have caused human or AI moderators to pay less attention to his account overall, which meant that when he did resume posting (at first just once per day) that content wasn’t being throttled to Instagram users. Once he resumed posting on a limited basis, Remer’s engagement went through the roof, and he was able to attract several thousand new followers in a matter of weeks.


Another tactic that Remer’s deployed is dropping the use of hashtags altogether. You’d think that would limit Remer’s ability to reach non-followers, but he says the opposite is actually true. Tags like #DGU, #2A, or #gunrights may be seen as red flags for Instagram’s human and computerized moderators, and even the word “gun” itself might cause posts to be shadowbanned or have limited engagement. Remer says he’s no longer using the word “gun” in his posts, instead using the word “pew”, which doesn’t seem to be tripping any triggers.

This is helpful advice for those hoping to spread their pro-2A message on social media, but it’s also evidence of a very big problem. If words like “rifle” or hashtags like #DGU are signals to moderators that content should be limited or restricted it becomes much more difficult to get the word out about everything from current gun control bills to upcoming competitive shooting events. Remer may have found a way to get around the censorious scolds of Silicon Valley, at least temporarily and one platform, but the larger issue of silencing Second Amendment voices still remains.

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