Videos in violation of YouTube’s own Community Guidelines have collectively amassed millions of views
Washington (February 15, 2022) – U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in calling on YouTube to remove videos that guide viewers on how to manufacture and assemble unserialized, untraceable ghost guns. According to YouTube’s Community Guidelines, videos that aim to “instruct viewers on how to make firearms, ammunition, and certain accessories or instruct viewers on how to install those accessories” are prohibited on the platform.
“We write to express our serious concern that YouTube continues to host videos that instruct viewers on how to make and manufacture ghost guns. This content is a clear and direct violation of YouTube’s existing Community Guidelines on firearms,” the senators wrote to YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki.
Ghost guns, which are easily assembled with a 3-D printer or a do-it-yourself gun making kit purchased from an unlicensed seller, can be obtained without passing a background check and have become the weapon of choice for gun traffickers, convicted felons, domestic violent extremists, and foreign terrorists. These weapons pose a distinct, deadly threat to communities across the country and impede law enforcement efforts to investigate crimes.
While YouTube has taken limited action to remove this dangerous content, the senators noted dozens of videos still on the platform today that violate existing guidelines and have been viewed millions of times.
“It took one researcher less than 10 minutes to locate dozens of additional videos that violated the same Community Guidelines on YouTube’s platform. These videos—accounted for in the attached appendix—have been viewed, collectively, more than two million times,” the group wrote.
Citing steps taken by the platform as, “insufficient,” and, “clearly not enough,” the senators called on YouTube to affirmatively and expeditiously enforce its own Community Guidelines on firearms and ensure the content it hosts does not exacerbate the threat of ghost guns.
“That YouTube has Community Guidelines in place to prohibit content instructing viewers on how to make firearms is a welcome initiative, but these policies must be enforced—and enforced strongly—to make any difference,” the group wrote. “It cannot be the case that YouTube is entirely reactive, removing these kinds of videos only when news outlets call public attention to violative content, when gun violence prevention advocates send letters listing specific YouTube videos that violate its Community Guidelines, or when congressional staff reach out to raise concerns about such videos.”
“Until YouTube devotes the time and resources necessary to actually enforce its Community Guidelines, the claim that safety is your highest priority rings hollow.”
The full text of the letter is available here and below.