YouTube Tweaks Rules for Watching Gun Videos

Tips for removing firearm safety devices will be limited to people over 18
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 5, 2024 6:50 PM CDT
YouTube Tweaks Rules for Watching Gun Videos
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald demonstrates how a gun lock works in March in the trial of James Crumbley, who was accused of not securing a gun used by his son to kill classmates.   (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press via AP, Pool)

YouTube is changing its policies about firearm videos in an effort to keep potentially dangerous content from reaching underage users. The video sharing platform owned by Google said Wednesday it will prohibit any videos demonstrating how to remove firearm safety devices. In addition, videos showing homemade guns, automatic weapons, and certain firearm accessories like silencers will be restricted to users 18 and older, the AP reports. The changes take effect June 18 and come after gun safety advocates have repeatedly called on the platform to do more to ensure gun videos aren't making their way to the site's youngest users, potentially traumatizing children or sending them down paths of extremism and violence.

Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, said the change is a step in the right direction. But she questioned why it took so long. "Firearms are the number one cause of death for children and teens in America," said Paul, whose group has long sought stronger age controls on online gun videos, per the AP. "As always with YouTube, the real proof of change is whether the company enforces the policies it has on the books." Last year, researchers at Paul's group created YouTube accounts that mimicked the behavior of 9-year-old American boys with a stated interest in video games.

The researchers found that YouTube's recommendations system forwarded these accounts graphic videos of school shootings, tactical gun training videos, and how-to instructions on making firearms fully automatic. One video featured an elementary school-age girl wielding a handgun; another showed a shooter using a .50-caliber gun to fire on a dummy head filled with lifelike blood and brains. Many of the videos violated YouTube's own policies against violent or gory content. YouTube said the policy changes were designed as an update to reflect new developments, like 3D printed guns, which have become more available in recent years. YouTube requires users under 17 to get a parent's permission before using their site; accounts for users younger than 13 are linked to the parental account.

(More YouTube stories.)

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