In mid-January, YouTube released guidance regarding the requirements to remain a “YouTube Partner.” In mid-March, YouTube released new guidelines for videos containing or related to firearms.
YouTube is free to set its own rules for the content it hosts. I do not challenge the notion that they should have the right to determine what they allow on their servers.
I do challenge their recent actions to clamp down on certain forms of speech, however, on a philosophical basis. Put simply: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
It’s important to note that my personal channel, Vuurwapen Blog, is far in excess of these requirements, has retained continuous YouTube Partner status for years, and was in no danger of being marginalized. At the time of this writing, I had over 30 times the subscriber requirement and approximately 5 times the annual watch hours requirement listed in the January 16 message to remain a YouTube partner – so I, personally, would not be affected by the most wide-ranging policies recently announced by YouTube. Furthermore, I had accrued zero “strikes” for bad behavior on YouTube.
I would, however, be affected by YouTube’s recent firearms policy announcement, and many of my videos have been marked as “not suitable for most advertisers.” With all the clumsiness of a panel of septuagenarian males setting policies for young females’ access to birth control, the invisible hand of YouTube has marked as inappropriate firearm-related videos I made entitled “Why I Avoid Shooting Animals,” “Things I Don’t Like About the NRA,” and “Which Gun Safety Rule is Most Important?” while NOT marking as inappropriate videos of me shooting machine guns or explaining how to reload a rifle.
Setting aside the irony of YouTube reacting to a boycott of the NRA by censuring creators of videos which criticize the NRA, ignoring the censorship of videos expressing a pure opinion, YouTube’s firearm policy will only serve to drive videos relating to firearms away from their platform. While some might say “good!” – YouTube is a place where things can be watched, both literally and figuratively. By taking this action, YouTube is driving certain forms of content underground where they cannot be monitored and sunlight, the “best disinfectant,” does not reach.
I am pleased that the only fatality in the recent attack on YouTube was the shooter and fervently hope for the quick and full recovery of those who were injured. Violence is not the answer to disagreements on policy.
Voices must be raised in opposition, however, when wrong actions are taken. Accordingly, I have deleted the entire contents of my YouTube channel. By continuing to allow my videos to be hosted on YouTube, and especially by allowing their “monetization,” I was financially supporting, in however infinitesimal a manner, a clampdown on speech with which I disagree. With almost 20 million video views, 32,000 subscribers, and 73% average audience retention, I created videos that some people wanted to watch, and I was a small asset to YouTube. No more.
YouTube may pretend that they are being proactive and progressive with this stance, but all they are doing is washing their hands of a troublesome topic and hoping it will become someone else’s problem. This action will not reduce the appetite for videos relating to guns nor will it reduce access to information which might be used to cause harm. On the contrary, YouTube’s firearm policy is likely to accelerate the availability of questionable content in places and formats where threatening comments or the advocation of violence cannot be as quickly identified and countered.