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June 6, 2024

YouTube Implements Stricter Policies on Gun Videos to Protect Youth

In a significant move to safeguard its younger audience, YouTube, owned by Google, has announced a major update to its policies regarding firearm-related videos. Starting June 18, the platform will prohibit any content demonstrating the removal of firearm safety devices. Additionally, videos featuring homemade guns, automatic weapons, and specific firearm accessories, such as silencers, will be restricted to users aged 18 and older.

The policy changes come in response to persistent calls from gun safety advocates who have urged the platform to do more to prevent potentially harmful content from reaching underage users. There is a growing concern that such content could traumatize children or lead them down dangerous paths of extremism and violence.

Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, expressed approval of the new policy, calling it a step in the right direction. However, she questioned the delay in its implementation and emphasized the importance of effective enforcement. “Firearms are the number one cause of death for children and teens in America,” Paul noted. Her organization has long advocated for stronger age controls on online gun videos. “As always with YouTube, the real proof of change is whether the company enforces the policies it has on the books. Until YouTube takes real action to prevent videos about guns and gun violence from reaching minors, its policies remain empty words,” she added.

The urgency for such measures was underscored by a study conducted by Paul’s group last year. Researchers created YouTube accounts mimicking the behavior of 9-year-old American boys with an interest in video games. They discovered that YouTube’s recommendation system directed these accounts to graphic videos of school shootings, tactical gun training, and instructions on converting firearms to fully automatic. One particularly disturbing video featured an elementary school-age girl wielding a handgun, while another showed a shooter using a .50 caliber gun to fire at a dummy head filled with lifelike blood and brains. Many of these videos were in direct violation of YouTube’s own policies against violent or gory content.

In light of these findings, YouTube stated that the policy changes were part of an ongoing effort to update guidelines to reflect new developments, such as the increased availability of 3D-printed guns. The platform requires users under 17 to obtain parental permission before using the site, and accounts for those under 13 are linked to a parental account. “We regularly review our guidelines and consult with outside experts to make sure we are drawing the line at the right place,” said company spokesman Javier Hernandez.

YouTube, along with TikTok, is one of the most popular sites among children and teens. Both platforms have faced scrutiny in the past for hosting and sometimes promoting content that encourages gun violence, eating disorders, and self-harm. The influence of such content has become a growing concern, especially considering that several perpetrators of recent mass shootings have used social media and video streaming platforms to glorify violence, foreshadow, or even livestream their attacks.

The move by YouTube to tighten its policies on gun videos is a crucial step in addressing these concerns. However, the effectiveness of this initiative will largely depend on the platform’s ability to enforce these new rules consistently and prevent harmful content from slipping through the cracks. As the debate over gun safety and online content continues, stakeholders will be watching closely to see if YouTube’s actions lead to a safer online environment for its youngest users.

Read more latest news on R9 News

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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