Before noon this morning an editor at Grand View Outdoors received a press release from Spike Tactical, a well-known gun and AR-15 manufacturer. The release announced that, without warning or notice, YouTube had banned the company’s channel for its gun-related content.
At the time, Spike Tactical’s YouTube channel featured this message:
“This account has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy against spam, deceptive practices and misleading content or other Terms of Service Violations.”
“This is without question an attack on free speech,” said Kit Cope, marketing director of Spike’s Tactical. “We feel strongly that after they get done going after guns, they’ll continue to ban and erase content that falls in line with conservative ideologies like they have already demonstrated with the deletion of anti-abortion videos and the like.”
(Cope may be referring to the undercover Planned Parenthood video removed from YouTube last year in response to Judge William Orrick’s order.)
The featured video was created by Grand View Outdoors and sponsored by Federal Premium. It’s classified as a “firearms demo video” that could be targeted for removal under YouTube’s new guidelines.
In today’s Bloomberg coverage of YouTube’s ban, which was presumably rolled out today, the online magazine refers to the new policy as something the social network enacted “quietly.” And earlier this afternoon, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) released a statement addressing the ban:
“YouTube’s announcement this week of a new firearms content policy is troubling. We suspect it will be interpreted to block much more content than the stated goal of firearms and certain accessory sales. Especially worrisome is the potential for blocking educational content that serves an instructional and skill-building purpose. YouTube’s policy announcement has also served to invite political activists to flood their review staff with complaints about any video to which they may proffer manufactured outrage.
Bloomberg posted this response from YouTube,which has been widely known as a popular media site for firearms enthusiasts:
“We routinely make updates and adjustments to our enforcement guidelines across all of our policies,” a YouTube spokeswoman said in a statement. “While we’ve long prohibited the sale of firearms, we recently notified creators of updates we will be making around content promoting the sale or manufacture of firearms and their accessories.”
In its statement opposing the YouTube ban, the NSSF cited a May 2016 court opinion written by Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain that states, “Our forefathers recognized that the prohibition of commerce in firearms worked to undermine the right to keep and bear arms.”
The NSSF suggest this argument can be logically extended to social media platforms:
“Much like Facebook, YouTube now acts as a virtual public square. The exercise of what amounts to censorship, then, can legitimately be viewed as the stifling of commercial free speech, which has constitutional protection. Such actions also impinge on the Second Amendment.”
You can read the full, 36-page court opinion here.
It was reported that the new YouTube policies would be enforced beginning in April, but given the accounts provided by Spike’s Tactical and other gun-related content creators, April seems to have arrived early.