If Google will go to such lengths to prove gun owners aren’t the “you” that YouTube is referring to, should we really continue to support the company?
Gun owners need a version of YouTube that doesn’t treat those of us who take our Second Amendment rights seriously like we’re a problem that needs to be solved. This new video-sharing site’s marketing plan would be simple. Just run ads saying, “YouTube hates you. We are you.” Build it, and America’s 100-million-plus gun owners would come.
This has become a major topic again because Google’s YouTube recently tossed Brownells—the gun parts supply company known for its excellent videos on how to maintain, operate and repair firearms—off its video-sharing site. YouTube did reinstate the Brownells channel a few days later, but only after pushback from Brownells’ many fans lit up social media and began to appear in national media outlets.
Brownells has more than 1,000 videos on its YouTube channel. As this was being written, Brownells’ YouTube channel had 71,003 followers (up nearly 10,000 subscribers in just a few days after YouTube reinstated it).
Brownells’ videos aren’t political, and they abide by YouTube’s stringent rules banning videos that directly sell guns, ammunition, etc. Brownells’ videos are, however, addictive, as the company’s experts give professional, concise information on new products, collector’s guns “From the Vault” and more.
This temporary block by YouTube wouldn’t be very newsworthy if it weren’t part of a trend. YouTube and its parent company Google have coyly marginalized, demonetized and outright banned pro-gun and politically conservative content for political reasons.
Syndicated radio host Dennis Prager is even suing Google after some of his “Prager U” videos were put on a restricted list by YouTube. Prager says Google is “transparently ideological” and that “there is no question” that it censors conservative information.
Google and its video-sharing site YouTube are private companies, so they are not restricted by the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, as the First Amendment only restricts government infringement. That is why the marketplace needs to address this issue with real, viable alternatives that respect different views.
Google is a Silicon Valley giant—in fact, a near monopoly—that adheres to a liberal-progressive ideology. Its influence is growing, and its reach is scary because it is often hard to clearly see—much of it is hidden within Google’s secret algorithms. Google is also very active in lobbying for its interests on Capitol Hill, and its money is spread around Washington, D.C.’s, think tanks and more. Of course, Google has the First Amendment right to petition the government, as it should, but most people don’t realize how powerful it has become.
For this reason some have argued that the federal government needs to break up Google as it once did other monopolies. Government, however, is a clumsy and slow instrument for solving such a new technological problem. Also, Google’s deep pockets and influence would make this very difficult to achieve.
A faster and better solution is for the marketplace to act. Companies that respect different views need to start video-sharing services. Some have, but there isn’t yet a real competitor for YouTube.
And in the absence of such competition, Google lacks something else: accountability. In fact, YouTube’s content-filtering system might have led to the Brownells channel being blocked. The site’s algorithm could have been gamed by anti-gun activists reporting abuse via YouTube’s “strike” system. If activists report enough strikes, its system can block even a company that has carefully followed YouTube’s rules.
We don’t know whether that could happen or not. We do know that Google’s policies are hardly pro-gun. Also, we know Brownells is a large enough company to get attention, but that other, smaller pro-Second Amendment channels haven’t had enough weight to get a quick and fair hearing from YouTube officials.
The only way this is going to be resolved is through healthy competition. The upfront costs for starting a viable video-sharing website are immense, but hopefully some investors see that there is a huge market segment ready and waiting for them.
Frank Miniter is the co-author of Conquer Anything—A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team.