YouTube to restrict some firearm content for young users

YouTube will begin restricting some firearm content for young users later this month, the platform said in a new notice.

Starting June 18, content showing the use of homemade firearms, automatic firearms and some accessories, such as those that can simulate or achieve automatic fire, will be age restricted.  

Some content showing how to remove safety devices, such as fixed magazine devices, will also be prohibited under the new rules. 

“These updates to our firearms policy are part of our continued efforts to maintain policies that reflect the current state of content on YouTube,” spokesperson Javier Hernandez said in a statement. 

“For example, 3D printing has become more readily available in recent years so we’re expanding our restrictions on content involving homemade firearms,” he added. “We regularly review our guidelines and consult with outside experts to make sure we are drawing the line at the right place.” 

The Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a Big Tech watchdog group, touted the move as a “step in the right direction” but also questioned “why it took the company so long to address the issue.”

“As always with YouTube, the real proof of change is whether the company enforces the policies it has on the books,” TTP Director Katie Paul said in a statement. “Until YouTube takes real action to prevent videos about guns and gun violence from reaching minors, its policies remain empty words.”   

A TTP report from last year found that YouTube recommended videos about guns and gun violence, including videos on how to convert guns into automatic weapons, to accounts for boys interested in video games.

Concerns about the role of tech companies and video game retailers in introducing young men to violence and guns is at the center of a pair of lawsuits recently filed against Meta, Activision Blizzard and Daniel Defense.

Last month, the families of victims of the 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, sued the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, the publisher of the video game “Call of Duty” and the gunmaker who manufactured the AR-15 used in the massacre.

The families allege that the companies are grooming “a generation of young men who are socially vulnerable, insecure about their masculinity, and eager to show strength and assert dominance.” 

“To put a finer point on it: Defendants are chewing up alienated teenage boys and spitting out mass shooters,” one of the complaints reads. 

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