Once upon a time, YouTube was a glorious place. People could post videos of just about anything short of adult content. That was great for people into guns because you could find people talking about their favorite firearms and shooting them.
Then the platform started restricting certain things. Some of those made sense–see also: Logan Paul and the Japanese suicide forest–but others didn’t, particularly when it came to guns.
But those early anti-gun efforts were driven in part by media efforts. It was easy to chalk them up to a PR effort.
Since then, though, it’s not improved. Recently, we reported about what looked like a new change from YouTube.
I reached out to YouTube at that time. I’m still waiting to hear back from them.
Yet it seems that we’ve gotten an answer as to what happened. YouTube says it was a mistake.
Social media giant YouTube has reversed course on deleting videos and channels featuring videos where a silencer is attached to a gun.
The video hosting site said recent moderation efforts aimed at videos where sound suppressors are affixed to guns were a mistake. The takedowns and channel strikes had appeared to affect videos, whether attaching the suppressor was part of a guide or just incidental. The company said it is now in the process of restoring videos and channels that were wrongly flagged.
“Upon review, we determined the videos in question are not violative of our Community Guidelines and have reinstated them,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Reload. “When it’s brought to our attention that content has been mistakenly removed, we review it and take appropriate action, including reinstating and removing associated strikes.”
The reversal comes after channels with upwards of ten million followers run by suppressor manufacturers or professional content creators and those with a few dozen followers run by hobbyists had videos taken down and appeals denied. It is an example of another moderation controversy surrounding a tech giant and how it approaches gun content on its platform. It may spurn further distrust among gun owners looking to post or consume videos and could invite further scrutiny from already tech-skeptical Republicans who just took control of the House of Representatives.
The takedowns sparked outrage and panic among gun channels on the platform. The official channels of SilencerCo, Ammoland, and Recoil Magazine were all deleted outright. Silencer Central had numerous videos pulled down. Individual videos from creators, including Demolition Ranch, Garand Thumb, Top Shot Dustin, and many more, were taken down. The creators were all told that they had violated the company’s firearms policy in automated notification emails.
At the heart of things, YouTube initially claimed these videos violated the policies on not showing how to manufacture firearms or modifying them.
The problem was that they didn’t. Attaching a suppressor to a firearm isn’t a weapon modification. It’s just attaching something to the barrel. YouTube is full of movie clips showing people doing the exact same thing, oddly enough.
Now, though, it seems that this was a mistake, one likely spawned as a result of their moderation algorithm. After all, no one actually saw these videos before they were removed.
The use of an algorithm to assist with content moderation makes sense. After all, YouTube sees 500 hours of content uploaded on its platform every minute as of June, 2022. There’s simply no way to hire enough people to moderate all that material, so algorithms make sense.
But it seems like they need to use the algorithm to flag content for a human rather than just deleting videos.
Then again, this is YouTube. There’s really nothing that will stop this from happening again and there’s little reason they won’t decide next time to just lean into the “mistake.”
As Forgotten Weapons Ian McCollum told The Reload:
“YouTube is a fundamentally unreliable partner that refuses to talk to its creators and actively works against them,” McCollum said. “They have no interest in the things that originally made YouTube a great place to find information. They are only trying to change an ever-shrinking attention span to feed ads to a constantly scrolling feed of flashy distractions.”
The term “unreliable partner” sums it up perfectly, in my opinion, and it should be noted that this goes well beyond gun channels on the platform. Plenty of other people have had issues, so this isn’t just about guns. It’s about a systemic failing at the platform.
The fact that they’re so anti-gun in general just makes it more difficult to determine whether the problem is maliciousness or incompetence, if not both.
Either way, the channels are coming back. The question now becomes whether or not anyone is remotely interested in continuing to play in YouTube’s sandbox, especially with the reported poor communication from the company.