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YouTube announces new restrictions on gun videos

YouTube says it is introducing new restrictions on videos featuring guns after repeated calls by campaigners to limit potentially traumatising material.

From 18 June, the video-sharing platform said it will prohibit any videos demonstrating how to remove firearm safety devices.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, will also restrict videos showing homemade guns and automatic weapons for users under 18.

While campaigners have welcomed the initiative, they said YouTube must show it is taking “real action” to prevent children from being exposed to potentially traumatising content or material which could encourage violence.

Gun-related injuries have been the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the US since 2020, according to a report by the Washington-based National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation.

In 2022, the number of US children dying or being injured by gunfire reached a record high.

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Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, questioned why the platform took so long to issue a new policy, and said the group will look to see 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 sought 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.”

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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 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.

One video featured an elementary school-age girl wielding a handgun. Another showed someone using a .50 calibre gun to fire on a dummy head filled with lifelike blood and brains.

Many of the videos violated YouTube’s own policies against violent or gory content, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said last month.

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YouTube said the policy changes were designed to reflect new developments, like 3D printed guns, which have become more available in recent years.

YouTube requires users under 17 to have permission from a parent or guardian before using the site. 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 company spokesman Javier Hernandez.

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