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YouTube toughens its policy on videos of firearms and young people

  • June 6, 2024
  • 5 Min
  • 7

YouTube is changing its gun video policies to prevent potentially harmful content from reaching underage users.

The Google-owned video-sharing platform announced Wednesday that it would ban any videos showing how to remove safety devices from firearms. Additionally, videos showing homemade weapons, automatic weapons, and certain firearm accessories like silencers will be restricted to users 18 and older.

The changes take effect June 18 and come after gun safety advocates repeatedly called on the platform to do more to ensure gun videos don’t reach the site’s younger users , potentially traumatic for children or sending them down dark paths of extremism and violence. .

Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, said the change was good 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 would review how effectively YouTube enforced its new rule.

“Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States,” said Paul, whose group has long called for stricter age controls on online gun videos. fire. “As always with YouTube, the real proof of change is whether the company enforces the policies it has on its books. Until YouTube takes concrete steps to prevent gun videos and armed violence from reaching minors, his policies will remain empty words.”

Last year, researchers in Paul’s group created YouTube accounts mimicking the behavior of 9-year-old American boys with a stated interest in video games. Researchers found that YouTube’s recommendation system served these accounts with graphic videos of school shootings, tactical weapons training videos, and how-to instructions for making fully automatic firearms.

One video featured a school-aged girl brandishing a handgun; another showed a shooter using a .50-caliber pistol to shoot a fake head filled with realistic blood and brains. Many of the videos violated YouTube’s own policies against violent or gory content.

YouTube said the policy changes were intended as an update to reflect new developments, like 3D printed guns, which have become more available in recent years. YouTube requires users under the age of 17 to obtain parental permission before using their site; accounts of users under 13 are linked to the parental account.

“We regularly review our guidelines and consult with external experts to ensure we are placing the limit in the right place,” said company spokesperson Javier Hernández.

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

Several perpetrators of recent mass shootings have used social media and video streaming platforms to glorify violence, foreshadow or even livestream their attacks.

By DAVID KLEPPER Associated Press

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Allwitch Joly