YouTube is tightening restrictions on videos featuring firearms and accessories, entering the intensifying gun control debate.
The move, announced this week, has already been condemned by some firearm enthusiasts as overreaching censorship. Others applauded the company ― the world’s largest video platform ― for taking a stand in the wake of last month’s Parkland, Florida, high school massacre.
Under the new rules, to be enforced starting in April, YouTube will prohibit videos that link to sites selling firearms or gun accessories. Instructional videos containing information about how to build guns also will be restricted.
A YouTube spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal the company several years ago banned videos explicitly promoting the sale of firearms, but recently decided to expand the restrictions.
“We routinely make updates and adjustments to our enforcement guidelines across all of our policies,” the spokeswoman said.
YouTube in October began removing videos showing how to modify firearms with bump stocks following the massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds injured. The shooter used the gun attachment on his rifles, allowing him to fire much more quickly.
A cursory search on Thursday revealed tens of millions of videos on YouTube teaching viewers how to make guns (both real and toy varieties) and firearm accessories like silencers.
The expanded restrictions are provoking an outcry from gun advocates, according to conservative media outlets. Some accused the site of “Big Brother” censorship, while others criticized the guidelines as vague.
“Their policies are not very clear-cut and they are arbitrary,” Karl Kasada, co-owner of InRange TV, a YouTube channel featuring firearm videos, told the Journal. “You never know when you are going to get hit by them.”
InRange TV said on Facebook this week that the channel will be moving its content to the porn website PornHub following YouTube’s change.
“PornHub has a history of being a proactive voice in the online community, as well as operating a resilient and robust video streaming platform,” InRange TV’s post said.
YouTube posted its policy change less than a week before March For Our Lives, a gun control rally organized by survivors of the Parkland massacre. More than a half-million people are expected to attend the protest Saturday in Washington and in other cities.