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New restrictions on gun videos announced by YouTube

YouTube Implements New Restrictions on Gun Videos, Faces Criticism for Delay

YouTube, the popular video-sharing platform owned by Google, has announced that it will be implementing new restrictions on videos featuring guns. The changes come after repeated calls from campaigners to limit potentially traumatising material on the platform. From 18 June, YouTube will prohibit any videos demonstrating how to remove firearm safety devices. It will also restrict videos showing homemade guns and automatic weapons for users under 18.

While campaigners have welcomed the initiative, they have also emphasized the need for YouTube to take concrete actions to prevent children from being exposed to potentially traumatising content or material that could encourage violence. According to a report by the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation, gun-related injuries have been the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the US since 2020. In 2022, the number of US children dying or being injured by gunfire reached a record high.

Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, questioned why the platform took so long to issue a new policy. She also stated that the group will closely monitor how effectively YouTube enforces its new rules. “Firearms are the number one cause of death for children and teens in America,” said Ms Paul, whose group has long advocated for stronger age controls on online gun videos. “As always with YouTube, the real proof of change is whether the company enforces the policies it has on the books. Until YouTube takes real action to prevent videos about guns and gun violence from reaching minors, its policies remain empty words.”

Last year, researchers at the Tech Transparency Project created YouTube accounts that mimicked the behaviour of nine-year-old American boys with a stated interest in video games. The researchers found that YouTube’s recommendations system forwarded these accounts graphic videos of school shootings, tactical gun training videos, and how-to instructions on making firearms fully automatic. Shockingly, one video featured an elementary school-age girl wielding a handgun, while another showed someone using a .50 calibre gun to fire on a dummy head filled with lifelike blood and brains. Many of these videos violated YouTube’s own policies against violent or gory content, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

In response to the criticism, a YouTube spokesperson stated that the policy changes were designed to reflect new developments, such as the availability of 3D printed guns in recent years. The platform already requires users under 17 to have permission from a parent or guardian before using the site, and accounts for users younger than 13 are linked to the account of a parent or guardian.

“We regularly review our guidelines and consult with outside experts to make sure we are drawing the line at the right place,” said Javier Hernandez, a company spokesman.

As YouTube continues to face scrutiny over its handling of potentially harmful content, the onus is now on the platform to effectively enforce its policies and protect its young users from being exposed to violence and trauma.

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