YouTube tightens its policy on gun videos for youth, but critics claim that proof will come in the enforcement

WASHINGTON YouTube changes its policy regarding firearm videos to prevent potentially dangerous content reaching users under the age of 18.

Google’s video-sharing platform announced on June 5, that it would prohibit videos showing how to remove firearms safety devices. Videos of homemade guns, automatic firearms, and certain firearm accessories such as silencers, will also be restricted for users over 18.

Changes will take place on June 18, after gun safety advocates repeatedly asked the platform to do something to prevent gun videos from reaching the site’s younger users. This could lead to children being traumatised or leading them to extremism or violence.

Katie Paul, Director of the Tech Transparency Project said that the change is a welcome one and a positive step. She questioned the delay in releasing a new policy and said that her group would be looking at how YouTube implements this new rule.

Paul’s group, which has been pushing for age restrictions on gun videos online since the 1990s, said that “Firearms is the number one cause” of death among children and teenagers in America. As always, YouTube’s policies must be enforced if it is to show any real change. YouTube’s policies are meaningless until it takes action to stop videos about guns or gun violence reaching minors.

Researchers from Paul’s team created YouTube accounts last year that mimicked the behaviours of nine-year old American boys who had expressed an interest in videogames. Researchers found that YouTube recommended videos on school shootings, gun training videos for tactical purposes and instructions on how to make firearms fully automatic.

In one video, a girl of elementary school age was shown holding a gun. Another showed a shooter firing a.50-caliber weapon at a dummy’s head that had been filled with realistic blood and brains. YouTube has a policy against violent and gory content. Many of these videos were in violation.

Last month, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg called on YouTube not to allow firearm-related videos for young users and accused the company of failing to enforce their own policies. Bragg applauded YouTube’s new policy on Wednesday.

Bragg told reporters that he had heard from several young people who said YouTube’s algorithm was driving them towards the world of 3D-printed and illegal firearms. This is having an impact on the safety for Manhattanites.

YouTube explained that the changes in policy were made to reflect recent developments such as 3D-printed guns, which are more readily available. YouTube requires that users under the age of 17 ask their parents’ permission before they can use their site. Accounts for users younger than thirteen are linked to their parental account.

Javier Hernandez, a company spokesperson, said: “We review our guidelines regularly and consult outside experts to ensure that we draw the line in the correct place.”

YouTube, along with TikTok is the most popular site for kids and teens. Both sites were criticized in the past because they hosted, and in some instances promoted, videos that encouraged gun violence, eating disorder and self-harm.

Many of the perpetrators in recent mass shootings used video streaming and social media platforms to glorify violence or livestream their attack. AP

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