He followed the rules, yet YouTube demonetized him: The new witch hunt

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a fairly long list of channels that you subscribe to through YouTube. To put it lightly, I personally take in a lot of content. I’m subscribed to more than I can take in. Between audio-only podcasts, as well as video material, I’m bombarded (nevermind the news tickers 24-7). But with that comes a certain sense of empowerment. I get to choose what I want to watch or take in. Granted, a lot of what I digest has to do with this very thing we’ve got going on here, writing about Second Amendment related issues. A recent YouTuber and colleague of mine and I were catching up over a quick email and he said that he’d be dealing with having been demonetized. This went beyond a nonchalant mention in an email, we had to talk about this.

The channels I subscribe to vary in size, such as your mega channels that are supported by television stations, down to some smaller ones that are just starting up or just fill a small niche. What’s great about the freedom of access to technology is that basically anyone with a cellphone camera and an internet connection can be their own television studio. Does that guarantee success or quality? No. But we do hold that power. For people that make videos and share them with the world because of their love of a subject, they really do it because they’re getting something out of it. In the case of YouTube and other outlets, if you shine, you might start making some money in doing what you love.

Jason runs the Texas Gun Vault (TGV) YouTube channel. What first attracted me to Jason was his pragmatic, down to Earth, and not over the top demeanor. A student of mine (hi, Sal) had shared some of his videos with me and that was all it took, I subscribed. On TGV (and TGV II), there are different types of videos. Jason does extensive gear reviews and periodically covers the week’s Second Amendment News. A popular segment he does is the question of the week. At 32,000 subscribers and over 1,000 videos, TGV is not a huge, Earth shattering channel. However, I don’t think 32,000 subs is anything to scoff at and I’d say that’s successful. At one point or another, Jason’s hard work started to bear fruit, and his channel got monetized.

Things were going great at TGV. Jason had some sponsors that were sending him or lending him gear to review, he had a great relationship going with his viewers, he started doing live streams when he could (to be able to talk directly with his audience), and he was pulling in a little money. In talking to Jason about it, the money is not profit. In fact, the funds that did come in would help only offset some of the production costs of running the channel.

Well, you know, I’ve been monetized for years, okay, and so I don’t make a lot of money. But it’s enough for me to not lose a lot of money. And that’s enough, you know, for ammo, and the things for review, and my time, and so forth. You know, I’m still losing, I was still losing money, but it made it what it was.

Jason told me that for every twenty minutes of video content he uploads, on average that represents about four hours of work to produce from beginning to end. Brining in the few dollars was certainly helpful in keeping the content funded.

Then things started to change. It was explained to me that he’d get a few notices here and there about violating the terms and conditions of YouTube, but he’d always win on an appeal. Jason’s channel is actually mild when it comes to both the “gun stuff” and “political stuff”. You’re not going to surf through the TGV archives and find videos of people blowing up appliances with tannerite, converting firearms to full-auto, or anything else that might make the delicate eyes and ears of YouTube sensors or viewers bleed. Let’s be clear here, that’s not to say that those types of videos are bad or should be censored, it’s just to say that that’s not the TGV style. Nor is fire and brimstone analysis of current affairs. TGV’s content is very interesting, informative, and high quality, as well as being safe, calm, and pragmatic.

[S]o I really work hard, because I understand it’s their platform, you know, and I really follow the guidelines. I always look at what they [expect] you know, and of course, they’re always constantly changing what the guidelines are. I’m sure you’ve seen other YouTubers talk about it…where they’ll say one day it’s okay, and then the next day, it’s not okay. And so occasionally, I started to notice that my videos, and really what I figured out was, when I would take apart a gun and field strip it and whatever, it would get limited. As it would tell me, okay, so this video is not monetized, but the funny one was. Then all of a sudden, a lot of my videos started to get demonetized; “Oh, we found it was against community guidelines.” And a lot of times, that’s with like their AI program, it’s not somebody who sits there and looks at every video. It’s some algorithm and it listens to what you say and what you put on. And you can ask for a manual review. And I would say…I would say 95% of the time, I would get approved. 

The appeals were working for the individual videos being challenged. Jason noted that even videos that were just talking about the news from a Second Amendment perspective, not showing firearms were being targeted too. Overall though, the process was working for the individual videos, until they completely cut off the whole channel.

[They’d say] no problem, because you’re not breaking community guidelines, you don’t curse, you don’t attack people, you handle the gun in a safe way. You don’t show how to make a machine gun or that kind of stuff. And then one day, it was just Oh, “you’re demonetized” [completely]. There’s no appeal, because I don’t have 100,000 subscribers. Once you have 100,000 subscribers, you get a YouTube person you’re allowed to contact. But until then it’s just going through the process. Well, they claim that I am producing harmful content, because I’m selling guns, and I’m promoting the selling of guns, and also gun modification. I’m like, “I don’t modify guns.”

This began about two months ago and there’s very little recourse, like none. Every 30 days he can resubmit for monetization/appeal. Given Jason’s output, that’s a good deal of subsidizing that’s gone.

This is going into the second month now, because it was just arbitrary. As I said, I was completely monetized. And I was getting all my videos barely reviewed and approved. And then I guess one of the reviewers, that’s probably anti-gun [started reviewing my content]. 

It’s YouTube’s platform. Even though TGV (as well as many other content creators) are not breaking any guidelines, they can still give you the ole heave ho. Jason has his thoughts about the fact that smaller channels like his are being targeted while some of the larger ones are not.

I said, some people out there see the bigger channels, because YouTube wants to make money. They’re totally fine with them doing everything that’s against community guidelines because they’re bigger.

Jokingly I said YouTube’s okay with those “merchants of death” because they’re making big money off of them. Funny, but not funny. This is the world we live in. That’s the way some people view this fundamental right.

Yes, these platforms are private companies, however we can’t ignore the irony of them subverting two constitutional rights, especially since they’ve positioned themselves into being the modern day town square. It’s hard to argue any of this when big tech is so hypocritical in what they do.

What can we do? What’s the recourse that we have as Second Amendment supporters, those that take in content, and work as content creators? Jason’s approach includes bringing content to alternative sites. But it’s a battle.

I just want the Second Amendment to flourish. I want other people out there making content that people want to consume. Because, for me, I enjoy it so much. I like all the different perspectives. I like to get all the you know, everyone’s thoughts on things. And people don’t realize that the Second Amendment community, if we don’t stand together…like I’m trying to get people to go to Rumble. I’m trying to do that. Because they’re free speech. They’re letting me do anything with no restriction. They’re like “everybody do anything with no restrictions as long as it’s not illegal.”

The apathy that Jason has received with imploring people to seek other avenues has also been a bit overwhelming.

In fact, one of my “questions of the week” was “What are you going to do when YouTube cuts everything?” Just all guns are banned? And I was so surprised that the majority opinion was, “I’ll just stick to YouTube no matter what, because I didn’t want to go learn a new app.” I don’t want to go…have to go to multiple places to get my stuff. I’m like, Well, that’s the problem right there. You’re not willing to fight for it.

Things may start to get better one day for those of us who wish to express ourselves on platforms that find our content abhorrent. I don’t think that day’s come yet, and until something big happens to set the record straight with big tech treating us all equally, these are the things we have to deal with. I think we should stay on all of these platforms to serve as a reminder that we’re still here and they should have to deal with us.

Like, subscribe to, and share the content that you enjoy. That’s one way to help support channels like TGV. Commenting also helps keep that algorithm off balance. The more channels like Jason’s that get widespread attention, the more YouTube is going to see the money they can make through advertising. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that gobs of money won’t make them look the other way, because it will and it does. It goes hand in hand with the types of principles these corporations have.

As for Jason and the Texas Gun Vault, I wish him luck. He’s got good content and knowing that he used to be able to offset some of his costs was a great thing. Hopefully he’ll gain some relief as he continues to navigate the process, eventually getting back some of that monetization. He, like so many creators, does what he does for the love of it and the Second Amendment, but what’s wrong with lessening that financial burden a little? With that, I’ll leave you with some lasting comments from Jason:

[O]ne of the philosophies of my channel is, I want to make gun content for gun people. And fully, while I don’t understand why somebody could be liberal or a Democrat and be, you know, “pro-gun”, I know, there are people out there [who are]. If I make content that seems to welcome people like that,[…] and brings people into the Second Amendment community, and then over time, that might change [their] mind to vote [pro-gun].

I mean, I’m humbled that people even just watch what I have to say.