YouTube tightens policy on gun videos and young people; critics say the proof will be presented

WASHINGTON — YouTube is changing its policy on gun videos to prevent potentially dangerous content from reaching underage users.

Google's video-sharing platform said Wednesday it will ban all videos showing how to remove firearm safety features. Additionally, videos featuring homemade weapons, automatic weapons, and certain firearm accessories such as silencers are restricted to users 18 years and older.

The changes take effect June 18 and come after gun safety advocates have repeatedly called on the platform to do more to ensure gun videos don't find their way to the site's youngest users, potentially traumatizing or harming children. are sent down dark paths. of extremism and violence.

Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, said the change was welcome news and a step in the right direction. But she questioned why it took so long for the platform to issue a new policy, and said her group will be watching to see how effectively YouTube enforces its new rule.

“Firearms are the number one killer of children and teens in America,” said Paul, whose group has long pushed for stricter age controls on online gun videos. “As always with YouTube, the real evidence of change is whether the company enforces the rules. policy it has on its books. Until YouTube takes real action to prevent videos about guns and gun violence from reaching minors, the policy remains empty words.”

Last year, researchers from Paul's group discovered YouTube accounts created which mimicked the behavior of 9-year-old American boys with a strong interest in video games. The researchers found that YouTube's recommendation system sent these accounts graphic videos of school shootings, tactical weapons training videos, and how-to instructions for making fully automatic firearms.

One video showed an elementary school-age girl with a gun; another showed a shooter using a .50 caliber pistol to shoot at a dummy head filled with lifelike blood and brains. Many of the videos are defaced YouTube's own policies against violent or gory content.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg last month called on YouTube to stop the distribution of gun-related videos to young users, telling the company it was failing to enforce its own policies. On Wednesday, Bragg said he welcomed the company's new policy.

“We have heard firsthand from young people that YouTube's algorithm is driving them into the world of illegal and 3D printed firearms, which has a direct impact on the safety of Manhattanites,” Bragg said in an emailed statement to reporters.

YouTube said the policy changes are intended to reflect new developments, such as 3D printed weapons, which have become increasingly available in recent years. YouTube required users under the age of 17 must obtain parental consent before using their site; accounts for users under the age of 13 are linked to the parental account.

“We regularly review our guidelines and consult with outside experts to ensure we are drawing the right line,” said company spokesman Javier Hernandez.

Along with TikTok, YouTube is one of the most popular sites for children and teens. Both sites have been questioned in the past for hosting and in some cases promoting videos that encourage gun violence, eating disorders and self-harm.

Several perpetrators of recent mass shootings have done so usedsocial media And streaming video platforms glorify violence, foreshadowing or even live stream their to attack.

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