Is this a shadow ban or coincidence?

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

Last week I reported about YouTube demonetizing a content creator without them having any recourse, and today we’re going to talk about presumed shadow banning. Scrolling through my social media feed I happened upon a post by Gabby Franco. In the post, Franco showed some analytics of YouTube videos that she’s recently put out, and the numbers are strange.

For those of you who don’t know who Franco is, she’s a former Olympian and Top Shot contestant. From her bio on her website:

Gabby Franco was the first female shooter to represent Venezuela in the Olympics. As an accomplished author, speaker, competitive shooter, and instructor, she is recognized worldwide for her shooting skills and advocacy for the right to own and bear arms. Gabby’s 25 years of experience in Olympic, self-defense, and practical shooting have served as a platform to educate and empower thousands of people through live and virtual training across the United States and Puerto Rico. For over eighteen years, Gabby has shown her commitment to promoting the shooting sports by not only participating and winning medals in various competitions, but also sending a message of dedication, sportsmanship, and positive attitude.

In 2012 Gabby made her first public appearance as a contender in the History Channel’s show TOP SHOT (Season 4) where she became the only woman to ever progress to the final stage of the competition. Following her success from Season 4, Gabby was the single woman to participate in the “All-Star season” of TOP SHOT. In 2013, she published her first book titled Troubleshooting: Mastering Your Pistol Marksmanship, selling over 4,000 copies worldwide in both English and Spanish.

I had a chance to meet Franco in May of 2021 at a DC Project (#tealteamtwo) fundraiser she was giving a speech at. The speech she delivered told the very important story of her life in Venezuela, growing there, being an Olympian, and ultimately settling down in the United States. Franco warned of the pitfalls of socialism and that we need to be careful that the United States doesn’t fall in the same manner that her homeland did. Franco cautioned the audience members about what can happen living under an authoritarian state.

I can tell you that 29-year-old people, 25-year-olds probably don’t really know what was Venezuela, different than the Venezuela you guys hear [about] in the news, and that is sad. And that’s scary. Because, it tells you how new generations…how generations can change and they forget what the…the lessons that the generations of the past had. I moved here to the US about 20 years ago, after I saw how the socialist government back then was destroying my country. Little by little. And many people didn’t want to hear it. My coach was from Cuba. I was lucky enough to listen to him…

After a small hiatus from putting out YouTube videos, Franco decided to give the new “shorts” a try. She explained to me that most of her videos are short anyhow, so why not make a few? I remember scrolling through my feed, catching the first video in her relaunch, stopping to watch it. Why not? It was under a minute and it’s not every day that you’re going to get advice from an Olympic shooter.

Franco isn’t some fly by night sensation. She’s been in the public’s view for quite awhile. Her current Instagram account has over 26,400 followers, her Facebook account has over 137,000 followers, and her YouTube account has nearly 7 thousand followers. When we were talking, she discussed the followers she’s had for years versus someone just starting out:

Because they [the big tech companies]  are, they have absolutely no respect for that [the Second Amendment]…therefore another, you know, the other point of view, they just don’t like it. They don’t like what we have in our hands [firearms] or what we believe, and boom. They shut us down without telling us to shut down. And basically they make people shut down by themselves. Unless you have millions and millions of followers. And then you get that the problem is that most of those channels, they were very active years and years ago, same thing. That’s Facebook, I had…I was very active, you know, when Top Shot came out, and I got hundreds of 1000s of followers back then. Before all this craziness of starting suppressing content. So, I got a lot of followers because of that, but for people to really…to get to the point where I’m at right now, it’s difficult.

So what happened? What did Franco notice with the videos she was posting?

I posted a regular video. And typical, I knew it was not driving that many views because my videos, my general videos, they are like…they used to be, you know, get 1000s and then went to literally a few If I’m lucky. A couple of hundred views. So I thought you know what, let me try this new thing called the short, short videos. So because my videos are short anyways, the ones I’m posting on Instagram, so I tried it. That was my first time ever posting that short media [on YouTube], and boom. In the first 16 hours, I had like 1500 views. But then went on to have 5000 views and right there it flattened. I’m not too worried about the flattening, because I don’t know how the short videos are presented to the viewers. Right? So I’m thinking I don’t know if they disappear or whatever. Or get bumped down as people post new videos, new short videos. But then it got my attention that the following week, the viewing, it got considerably lower. It got to a max of 1800. So I’m like alright, we’ll see where this goes. This third video, it got a max of 800 views.

Whenever I’m taking in content, most of the creators throw in at the end of their videos “be sure to like, subscribe, share, and comment.” The explanation is that without a flurry of activities, the algorithms will suppress the content. Activity throws it off. The thought process revolves around them, meaning the hosting sites, are out there to make money too. Even they will put their pocketbook over principles when it comes to what’s profitable.

Let me tell you, watch one video about an old Nintendo game, next thing you know you’re being tossed videos about games that were released during the first Bush administration (or earlier). You might find yourself watching hours of speed runs of games you could never beat back in the day. Gun content? You might be fed a little here and there. Think about your own experiences and what content you’re fed by the hosting company. Cat videos?

I asked Franco if she thought this was because of being shadow banned by social media or if it’s a function of what YouTube is doing.

You know, I have no clear answer for you. Oh, I can say my speculations, but what I see doesn’t match what’s happening on my, on my content. You know, like, like I’m saying, even if people don’t like, even if people think it’s horrible, you have to tell me that the first video had 5000 views. And the fourth video had only 100. That is to me…that is reach…it’s not reaching people, for people to not even click on it, right? They’re not given the opportunity to click on it and watch it.

Whatever the actual reason, Franco noticed a decline in viewership in a matter of a few videos. I personally find it hard to believe that it has to do with her videos being unpopular or unappealing. I do believe there’s another force up against her. I don’t know if it’s YouTube that’s gagging the content from getting her exposure. It’s doubtful that it’s the social media sites, because the videos I saw were uploaded to those platforms independently.

As gun owners, Second Amendment supporters, and lovers of freedom, it’s sad that this is what we have to deal with. I know, the hosting sites are private companies. I get that. I’ll always get that. That does not mean that I don’t like it. If these big corporations are going to hide behind legal protections from torts because they’re “platforms” instead of “publishers” I have maintained and will continue to maintain that they should play fair with everyone. It’s funny that the “shall not be infringed” crowd is usually the same lot that says move onto another platform. I say we stay to remind these companies that we’re here and they still have to deal with us.

And to think, Franco came to America for freedom and opportunity, both of which she’s been able to take advantage of. How much longer will that be available? Your guess is as good as mine.

Be sure to find Franco on all the social media sites and platforms. Toss her videos some likes and throw some comments her way. I do suggest that everyone takes a chance to watch her speech from May 2021 in full by going HERE or in the embed below (her speech starts at 15m43s). What she had to say is important.