Spike’s Tactical, a Florida-based firearm manufacturer, is the latest gun-related company to says its YouTube account has been cleansed from the video-sharing site. In this case it was removed “due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy against spam, deceptive practices, and misleading content or other Terms of Service violations.”
This came during the same day that YouTube further tightened its official policy on gun sales.
YouTube’s policy now says:
YouTube prohibits certain kinds of content featuring firearms. Specifically, we don’t allow content that:
- Intends to sell firearms or certain firearm accessories through direct sales (e.g., private sales by individuals) or links to sites that sell these items. These accessories include but may not be limited to accessories that enable a firearm to simulate automatic fire or convert a firearm to automatic fire (e.g., bump stocks, gatling triggers, drop-in auto sears, conversion kits), and high-capacity magazines (i.e., magazines or belts carrying more than 30 rounds).
- Provides instructions on manufacturing a firearm, ammunition, high-capacity magazine, homemade silencers/suppressors, or certain firearm accessories such as those listed above. This also includes instructions on how to convert a firearm to automatic or simulated automatic firing capabilities.
- Shows users how to install the above-mentioned accessories or modifications.
“This is without question an attack on free speech,” Kit Cope, marketing director of Spike’s Tactical, told the Shooting Wire. “We feel strongly that after they get done going after guns, they’ll continue to ban and erase content that falls in line with conservative ideologies like they have already demonstrated with the deletion of anti-abortion videos and the like.”
Maybe, but this isn’t a First Amendment attack on free speech. The First Amendment, like much of the rest of the Bill of Rights, is a restriction on government. A private company has the right to put up the content it chooses.
YouTube, however, has shown a real distaste for the Second Amendment. Recently it modified compensation agreements to cut revenues from YouTube “channels” that showcase firearms.
A lot of companies today rely on YouTube and Facebook to get the word out on their products. Politically incorrect gun companies are finding out there is a big risk in marrying a business model to another company’s platform—especially one that is ideologically from the side of politics that opposes Second Amendment freedom.
Still, collectively YouTube and Facebook are such a big part of the online world that not being a part of them is damaging. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for firearm retailers, responded to these changes Wednesday:
"YouTube’s announcement this week of a new firearm content policy is troubling. We suspect it will be interpreted to block much more content than the stated goal of firearms and certain accessory sales. Especially worrisome is the potential for blocking educational content that serves an instructional and skill-building purpose. YouTube’s policy announcement has also served to invite political activists to flood their review staff with complaints about any video to which they may proffer manufactured outrage.
"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, which has constitutional protection. Such actions also impinge on the Second Amendment.
"In what we see as a parallel situation, Facebook has repeatedly shut down the pages of legitimate and reputable firearm retailers that were following Facebook’s own rules. The interpretation depended on the reviewers, the vast majority of whom have little familiarity with our business practices, let alone our products, and many of whom do not even do their work from American soil."
As social media sites make content decisions based on certain politics, those who disagree will have to take their business elsewhere. If real conservative (or just completely nonjudgmental) alternatives to Facebook and YouTube are created, an unfortunate downside could be a further polarization of America.
But then a more robust marketplace of content could end up exposing more people to different views; after all, right now consumers only see on YouTube what they want to see. YouTube is great at making suggestions for content to each individual user, but these are tailored to what they’ve already clicked on.
YouTube consistently sends people down wormholes of their own making; whereas video-sharing or other social media sites set up to showcase certain lifestyles, as magazines have long done, could expose people to content they’d never see otherwise.