Manhattan DA Wrongly Blaming YouTube for 'Ghost Gun' Issue

AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

Once upon a time, YouTube was awesome. You could almost post anything and get away with it. A lot of people used to to share their knowledge on things like firearms, and a lot of people used it to learn about guns.


Then the platform got skittish and decided to start restricting gun content. In particular, anything that involved how to make a gun. It seems the powers that be at YouTube didn't want someone learning how to make a gun on their platform, then do something evil with that weapon. I disagreed with the decision, in part because someone would just find another way to blame them for a gun issue without acknowledging that the real issue are people who do things illegally.

Enter Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg.

It seems that he's blaming illegal "ghost gun" manufacturing on YouTube's algorithm.

There is growing concern about a shocking investigation that revealed YouTube's algorithm is pushing ghost gun content to those most at risk of making the weapons, including children playing video games.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg shared details of the investigation and said the videos in question are showing viewers how to make the untraceable ghost guns.

In several ongoing cases, teens and young adults being investigated for ghost gun possession and manufacturing told prosecutors they learned to build ghost guns on YouTube in less than an hour.

"All you need is a computer and a mouse and an interest in gaming, and you can go from games to guns in 15 minutes," Bragg said.


Investigators said a simple search for the video game "Call of Duty" can quickly lead to a flood of content about guns.

"Then we see more videos being suggested: How a Glock works, how an AR-15 works, how a revolver works. So all these videos are now being suggested. Just four minutes after a search and 'Call of Duty' videos, we have a video then of a 3D-printed Glock," said Bonnie Seok of the Manhattan DA Ghost Gun Initiative.


Now, there are two things to remember here.

The first is that YouTube's algorithm is built around the idea of "people who liked this content also liked that content, so since you like this content, you might like that content, too." No one at YouTube decided that people who liked Call of Duty would also be fed videos on how to make so-called ghost guns.

What happened is that people who liked Call of Duty also liked content about how guns worked. Some who liked that were also interested in videos of people 3D printing firearms--and no one was 3D printing a Glock since Glock is a name brand of firearm that isn't 3D printed. 

Next, we need to understand that YouTube has banned videos of people manufacturing guns.

Content intended to sell firearms, instruct viewers on how to make firearms, ammunition, and certain accessories, or instruct viewers on how to install those accessories is not allowed on YouTube. YouTube shouldn't be used as a platform to sell firearms or accessories noted below. YouTube also doesn’t allow live streams that show someone holding, handling, or transporting a firearm. 

In 2022, YouTube had roughly 500 hours of content uploaded every minute. There's no way they can physically check all of that content, so some prohibited stuff gets through from time to time. When they're alerted that something that's prohibited is there, they take it down.

Sometimes erroneously, it should be noted, but they do act.


So what exactly does Bragg expect YouTube to do? Change their entire algorithm just to accommodate his own fever dreams that the platform is facilitating these illegal operations somehow?

If so, the guy needs to seriously get bent.

I'm not a fan of how YouTube is run, but they've literally taken the biggest step possible to address this and done so years ago. 

And my question is whether the video of the "Glock" being printed was actually someone manufacturing a gun or whether it was someone simply showing the 3D printing process. That part isn't really assembly and can be shown at least in a snippet and likely skirt the prohibition. That then prompts these enterprising criminals to dig deeper and build guns.

That's really not YouTube's fault.

Bragg is mostly just looking for someone to blame because New York's extensive gun control laws don't actually seem to work all that well.

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