YouTube to Ban Gun-Related Content for Users Under 18

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In a proactive attempt to safeguard its youngest users from inappropriate content, YouTube, the video-sharing titan owned by Google, has announced a significant policy shift concerning firearm-related videos. Aiming to mitigate the potential perils of such content, the new measures will strictly forbid videos that illustrate the removal of firearm safety devices. They will also curtail videos that exhibit homemade guns, automatic weapons and certain firearm accessories like silencers by barring access to users under 18.

This policy shift, scheduled to go into effect from June 18, arrives in response to ongoing pressure from gun safety advocates who have repeatedly implored the platform to prevent firearm-related videos from trickling down to its youngest user demographic. They fear that exposure to such content might risk traumatizing children or unwittingly steer them towards unsettling corners of extremism and violence.

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Katie Paul, the helmswoman of Tech Transparency Project, championed this change as a promising stride in the right direction. Despite her enthusiasm, she challenged YouTube’s prolonged wait to enact such a policy. Moreover, she expressed that the real litmus test of change lies in YouTube’s efficacy in enforcing this new rule.

“Firearms have tragically claimed the top spot as the leading cause of death among children and teens in America,” said Paul, whose team has tirelessly crusaded for robust age restrictions on online gun videos. “Ultimately, until YouTube proves its commitment to shielding minors from videos promoting guns and gun violence, its policies might be perceived as just hollow rhetoric.”

Last year, an alarming study conducted by Paul’s team uncovered disturbing findings about the power of YouTube’s recommendation system. By creating accounts which mimicked the digital behavior of 9-year-old American boys interested in video games, the study discovered that YouTube’s algorithm pushed forth a chain of graphic videos ranging from school shootings, tactical gun training, to building fully automatic firearms.

Notably, several disturbingly graphic videos, including segments of a shooter employing a .50 caliber gun to assail a lifelike mannequin filled with artificial blood and brains was flagged. In many instances, YouTube’s own rules against violent or ghastly content were breached.

Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, last month demanded that YouTube halt the diffusion of firearm-related videos among young users, criticizing the company for its lax enforcement of its own rules. However, on learning of YouTube’s new policy, Bragg offered his applause.

Bragg shared in a statement relayed to reporters, “We have been privy to accounts from youngsters who underscore that YouTube’s algorithm is leading them towards the dark underbelly of illegal and 3D-printed firearms, posing a direct risk to the safety of our community.”

YouTube explains that these policy modifications were conceived to mirror new realities, notably 3D-printed guns, which have seen an explosion in availability over recent years. To use YouTube, the platform mandates parental consent for users under 17 while accounts of users younger than 13 are tethered to parental accounts.

Reassuringly, company spokesperson, Javier Hernandez, elaborated, “We routinely revisit our guidelines and we seek external experts to ensure we strike the right balance.”

Sharing the spotlight with TikTok as the most frequented sites by children and adolescents, both platforms have previously been scrutinized for hosting, and at times promoting, videos that endorse gun violence, eating disorders, and self-harm.

In a chilling development, several recent mass shootings perpetrators have exploited social media and video streaming platforms to glorify violence, hint at upcoming attacks or chillingly, livestream their horrific assaults.