On the same day that AmmoLand News reported on President Joe Biden’s attempt to shut down private sales of guns and websites that help people sell their firearms, YouTube shut down the Armslist YouTube Channel.
YouTube told AmmoLand News directly that it shut down the channel for “facilitating” gun sales, violating the YouTube terms of service (TOS). The TOS prohibits selling guns or linking to ads for gun sales.
“YouTube routinely reviews content to ensure it complies with community guidelines, and we terminated the channel in question for violating our policies that prohibit facilitating the direct sale of firearms on YouTube,” A YouTube spokesperson told AmmoLand News. “We enforce our policies equally for everyone and terminate channels that repeatedly violate our policies or are dedicated to violative content.”
Although the Armslist site contains classified ads for those wanting to sell guns, the Armslist YouTube page did not sell or link to the Armslist site. The latest video showed how to paint your rifle using spray paint. Thousands of videos on the platform show the same process, which does not violate the YouTube TOS.
YouTube works on a strike system. If a channel receives three strikes within 90 days, it could be terminated by the Google platform. At the time of Armslist being terminated, the channel did not have any active strikes. It seems like the video-sharing platform skipped the usual process and just removed the channel.
Last year, YouTube terminated multiple channels that covered homemade firearms. After receiving a list of channels via email from NBC News, YouTube determined what channels to shut down. Last week the New York Times posted a piece about Armslist, leading many to believe the story is related to the takedown.
In the NBC case, YouTube admitted to receiving a list of channels from the television network. This time they claim the decision to terminate the Armslist channel was made without any outside intervention. Many content moderators for YouTube are outside the United States and do not understand firearms and firearms laws. This cultural difference can lead to confusion about what is allowed and prohibited on the video-sharing platform.
Many creators have complained about the ambiguity of the YouTube rules surrounding firearms. YouTube seems to reinterpret the rules without warning. What is allowed today might not be allowed tomorrow, making it almost impossible to comply with the site’s regulations.
Other more 2A-friendly sites host videos, but even the biggest competitors of YouTube only have a fraction of the traffic. Leaving YouTube means playing in a much smaller sandbox, which hurts the reach of gun channels. Leaving YouTube is exactly what the anti-gun groups and politicians want the gun channels to do.
We must continue to fight to have our voices heard on different social media platforms. It could be dangerous to relegate ourselves to a self-imposed echo chamber. YouTube is where the views are and where we can reach people who are on the fence about guns. If we want to change hearts and minds, that is where we need to be. YouTube is the public square for video sharing.
Jonathan Gibbons is planning on appealing the termination of the Armslist Youtube channel
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.