YouTube gun policy is harmful

Cole Wangsness

YouTube enacted a new policy on content featuring firearms April 1. How much this policy will affect the firearms community is still to be seen.

The policy included banning content related to direct sales and links to third party sellers, certain accessories related to fire rate and high-capacity magazines.

It also banned posting instructions on manufacturing firearms, ammunition and other accessories.

Almost all of the activities outlined in the policy are legal, with some requiring additional licensing from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

YouTube firearm enthusiasts, who usually don’t sell products, worry that this policy will justify banning their channels even if they are not in direct violation.

YouTube’s policy on extremist content started in 2016 with the intention of targeting ISIS recruitment videos. It also began censoring conservative political channels.

In the past, YouTube has restricted and demonetized firearms videos.

As a gun owner, I have used YouTube to educate myself on firearm maintenance, history and safety. Disassembly and cleaning videos may fall under the ban, restricting educational resources for gun owners.

The legal question in this debate is whether social media platforms should be treated as digital public places.

The Supreme Court’s in Marsh v. State of Alabama decision ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses had the right to distribute religious pamphlets on a privately owned sidewalk as it was dedicated for public use.

The internet is a space for free speech and net neutrality and should have digital public squares.

Though Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are private entities, they occupy an important part of how we gather information online and interact with others.

Freedom of speech and expression are paramount in the digital age.

People are shutting themselves off from opposing viewpoints and exclusively listening to like-minded individuals.

One of our nation’s greatest strengths is the ability to debate important issues. Without discourse on social media, we risk further partisanship in an already divided country.

Stand firm against online censorship.