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YouTube has everything from cat videos to documentaries about war to child predators, all six clicks away. While even mainstream “family-friendly” content creators have complaints about YouTube, there is one form of YouTuber the platform loves to hate – GunTubers. Recently, YouTube made another push to de-platform and demonize GunTubers.
Starting just days before SHOT 2023 with the deletion of Ammoland.com’s YouTube page, the site either suspended or issued strikes against channels like Rodger Barrera, 1911 Syndicate, and Lucky Gunner. Spurring the writing of this article was the deletion of Kit Badger's channel. Little did we know only a few days later, RECOILTv's YouTube channel would also be summarily nuked.
Why is this happening, and what can we do about it? The answer isn’t very encouraging, but cold truths rarely are.
Based on what we know – I don’t think YouTube actually hates the Second Amendment as a construct.
From multiple conversations with multiple content creators on YouTube, they’ve spoken with many people that worked at YouTube who were pro-gun. The problem is, that’s not enough.
YouTube is here to make money. It isn't here to make the world a better place or to uphold morals and values. The company is in it for the almighty dollar.
Those dollars come from advertisers. While there are some firearm-friendly brands advertising with YouTube, the super majority of the site's money comes from mega-corporations like Disney and Amazon, household goods manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, and electronics brands like Samsung. The names of those who advertise on YouTube are nearly endless, but you get the idea.
YouTube made over $28 billion in 2021.
Of that, GunTubers are a very small drop in the bucket. The exact totals are unknown, but it’s easy to conjecture firearms content is nowhere in the top ten on YouTube.
2017: YouTube’s Worst Nightmare
Since most major brands prefer to avoid controversy or even the appearance of being on the wrong side of issues, it’s easy to understand why most only want to advertise products on channels and videos no one objects to.
But in 2017, YouTube screwed up. Truthfully, YouTube had been doing this for a long time – but people noticed in 2017. Due to a series of news articles showing YouTube ads playing alongside extremist videos — the kind with people’s heads being cut off — advertisers made it clear to YouTube that the money could stop.
Huge brands like Walmart and Verizon pulled ad dollars completely. In the month of April 2017, YouTube lost 5% of its top advertisers.
This happened again in 2019 when reports came out of YouTube’s grossly ineffective methods of dealing with child exploitation videos. Again, huge brands like Disney, Nestle, and others pulled ad money until YouTube fixed the problem or the public turned its attention to something else.
This is a supposition, I believe it’s reasonable to conclude YouTube hates gun channels because it is scared of firearms being the next big thing to lose money over.
With the mass media’s fetish for murder porn on the nightly news, guns are (as always) an easy target for (real or imagined) ire.
Even as large as the American firearm industry is, all of its marketing money combined isn’t enough for YouTube to sacrifice its Apple/Disney/Hulu cash.
While firearms are clearly not on its list of favorite things as a corporation, even vanilla channels have a rough time of actually communicating with anyone at YouTube who can make a difference.
Because of the staggering amount of content posted on the platform, the vast majority of moderation is automated.
Every minute, over 500 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube. More than 30,000 hours of video are added per hour. While YouTube employs thousands of moderators, this is far, far short of the tens of thousands of human moderators required to view all the content.
Instead, YouTube uses powerful AI and machine learning algorithms to comb through videos automatically. Everything from the words spoken to the images shown is scanned and processed by the algorithm.
This algorithm — more accurately many sets of different algorithms — work together to control everything from what you see in your recommended feed to what videos are allowed to make money.
As much as everyone hates this system, there isn’t a practical alternative. Not without YouTube spending an astronomical amount of money to fund human moderation teams. Not exactly something the company is likely to do if it wants to keep profit margins high.
One of the major problems all YouTubers have is the site's guidelines don’t matter. While YouTube maintains two sets of rules, one set that covers everything on the platform and another set specifically for videos that are monetized, the rules often are simply ignored.
When a channel gets a warning or a strike, the channel has the option to appeal it. This is, in theory, sent to a human moderator who looks at the issue and rules on it. The problem is these human moderators are unreliable in their judgment.
Videos that clearly do not violate the rules are still removed or demonetized. Channels can try to delete the video, reupload it, wait for the automated demonetization, and appeal to a different moderator for a different ruling — but this also runs the risk of multiple strikes for one video.
Some rules are so broadly written they become nonsensical. For example, 1911 Syndicate received a warning for swapping a charging handle on camera and a strike for unthreading a suppressor from a rifle.
Other channels, like Kit Badger, don’t even know exactly why its channel was deleted.
Instead, all that is offered is the name of the video supposedly violating the rules and a copy of the entire YouTube Firearms Policy. Too many of these strikes and the channel as a whole is simply deleted.
Even when YouTube deletes an entire channel, it barely tells you why except there were “too many violations.”
Goal Posts Moving Faster Than Light Speed
Another huge obstacle YouTubers face is old videos.
As YouTube has updated and changed its policy over the years, these new rules apply to old videos as well.
Videos that have been up for 5, 7, or 10 years are subject to YouTube rulings overnight. One recent change was creators could not show 30-round magazines. This resulted in multiple channels I spoke with having to spend hours, even days, going through old videos to self-censor them before YouTube found them.
Instead of warnings or a grace period, these old videos can cause a channel's deletion overnight.
As of this writing, this is what we believe happened to the RECOILTV YouTube channel. Videos that were years old featuring suppressors triggered strikes against the channel, followed by the entire channel being deleted.
Something a few channels have found is YouTube cares much more about channels that are monetized than channels that are not. But this isn’t the good kind of caring like a mother’s hug. This is more like attracting the Eye of Sauron.
InRangeTV has been proactively demonetized for years, and Karl — the channel's main host and creator — feels this helped keep the wolves at bay. Without ad revenue or sponsorships, InRange instead relies on the viewers to join and donate through other platforms like Patreon or Utreon.
However, even this has not kept the channel from receiving a warning in the past.
InRange’s great crime? A video about the Ghost Gunner machine that even didn’t show the machine. Instead, Karl overlaid videos of cats playing with yarn to self-censor the version of the video uploaded to YouTube.
Other channels, like 1911 Syndicate, are demonetized but do not rely on the YouTube for revenue to stay afloat. For the concern, its channel is a marketing tool for its real estate business.
“We monetized our channel around 40,000 subscribers, and were demonetized about 2 months later. Since then our channel has been demonetized, which probably helped us not get strikes.” — 1911 Syndicate
This has (probably) helped keep it off YouTube’s naughty list, but as its recent warning and strike shows, being demonetized does not make it immune.
The main problem with other video platforms — YouTube's competitors — is the lack of viewers. None of the channels I’ve spoken with actually like YouTube, but it’s the place where you can find the most viewers.
If you want to be the change you want to see in the world, the first step is to stop watching YouTube.
These are some of the best platforms to make this move.
Call it a shameless plug if you want, but Recoil.TV offers a video platform free of YouTube crapola. An aggressively pro-2A and 1A video platform, Recoil.TV is a great way to find and watch your favorite creators. It also acts as a backup in case YouTube persecutes your favorite channel. For example, you can still find Kit Badger on Recoil.TV.
You can also find original content from RECOIL Magazine and our sister publications like OffGrid, Gun Digest, Blade, and Carnivore.
The preferred site, according to several channels I know, Utreon is a mix of Patreon and YouTube. A video platform for people to watch their favorite channels, but also the ability to donate money directly to the channel.
Run by a founder and owner who believes in 2A and giving the people what they want, Utreon offers a lot of options and a lot of flexibility to channels while also using a fee structure that results in more of your donations going to the channel instead of the platform.
InRangeTV is a fan stating it's their preferred alternative to YouTube:
“From my content creator perspective, the best alternative to YouTube at this point is Utreon. They are a good mix of Patreon and YouTube combined, providing a lot of the benefits of both – it’s not a paywall, but does allow for direct viewer support and a lot of Patreon perks integrated into the platform. The owner has proven to be reliable, respectful and capable. I believe their heart is in the right place, but it is ultimately still a centralized solution.” — Karl Kasarda, InRangeTV
In the media, BitChute has a bad reputation, some of that is well earned. With a strong belief in freedom of expression, there comes the unavoidable reality of some real nut cases abusing the system to spread hate speech, crazy off-their-meds conspiracy theories, and lots of lies.
That said, BitChute offers a decentralized method of sharing and watching videos. Using a webtorrent for distribution means BitChute is extremely difficult to take down, reduces overhead costs, and gives a platform to those who would otherwise be left off major platforms like YouTube.
Viewers be warned: BitChute is definitely not a site I would let my children have free access. Scrolling through the most popular videos makes me want to take a shower and watch something wholesome, like cat videos… on YouTube.
Another platform that is home to anyone with a video camera, Rumble hosts everything from wholesome content like America’s Funniest Home Videos to the likes of Alex Jones and Andrew Tate.
Rumble also provides a clear and simple method for channels to monetize content, very similar to how YouTube AdSense works.
While again falling victim to the reality that not everything on the internet is good content, Rumble does draw a line at pornography, harassment, racism, antisemitism, copyright infringement, and illegal content.
I would still caution viewers to exercise their best judgment when browsing Rumble.
The writing is on the wall and has been for years. Sooner or later, YouTube will probably ban firearms from its platform. If it doesn't, it will at least make it so hard and unprofitable for gun channels to stay on the platform that, by choice or force, all of them leave.
While there is probably very little that can be done to prevent this, there are at least some alternatives, as I mentioned.
Until then, if you can and when you can, consider supporting your favorite channels directly via Patreon, Utreon, and other platforms.