It seems that the concept of a free press in America is becoming less of a reality as the businesses that control online sites that fall into the realm of “social media outlets” are more aggressively restricting the types of content they allow. Specifically, it’s getting harder information about firearms—and even accessories—online. It started with the sites rejecting content related to gun sales, a policy that was extended to include such things as gun accessories (even handgun locks). Now, the sites’ are microscopically examining instructional videos.
“Millions of Americans watch YouTube videos every day to learn more about the safe and responsible use of firearms, and those videos show law-abiding gun owners participating in lawful behavior,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “By banning this content, YouTube is engaging in politically motivated censorship and alienating the millions of people who turn to the website for education and training.”
YouTube is the site that has garnered the most publicity for its stance on guns. Granted, part of the publicity can be tied to anti-gunner Michael Bloomberg, as Bloomberg L.P.—a media company founded by the former New York City mayor—is not shy about spreading the word. But Facebook and Outbrain, among others, are in lockstep agreement about limiting access to information about guns.
How absurd is it getting? Consider that ZORE, an Israeli company that makes gun locks—locks, you know, the things that are supposed to prevent accidental shootings or stop criminals from using a law-abiding citizen’s gun to wreak havoc—can’t find space to advertise online.
"ZORE is about saving lives and protecting families. These are values that I would not have expected Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to blindly reject, without any distinction, just because it is gun related,” the company said after its ad campaign ran aground. “Because their approach is so sweeping, in our case, they’re actually keeping a highly innovative gun safety device out of the spotlight and limiting gun owners' freedom to choose. This lack of distinction, it would seem, is a result of their binary view on the issue, which sees anything firearm-related as bad."
The trend has caused bewilderment among gun-rights groups, such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). “We see the real potential for the blocking of educational content that serves instructional, skill-building and even safety purposes,” the NSSF said in a statement. “Much like Facebook, YouTube now acts as a virtual public square. The exercise of what amounts to censorship, then, can legitimately be viewed as the stifling of commercial free speech.”
Looks like the titans of online public forums figure that if they ignore the very idea that guns exist, they’ll go away. The 5 million law-abiding gun owners who are NRA members know otherwise. They realize that YouTube and Facebook are just trying to create virtual gun-free zones, and we know how well that works.