This week YouTube will begin enforcing new rules restricting videos that facilitate private gun sales or link to websites that sell guns. For content creators Ian McCollum and Karl Kasarda, who make gun videos that were already being swept up by YouTube's new content policing technology, these new gun-specific rules mean they might have to quit YouTube altogether.
The “adpocalypse,” as it has come to be known online, began in December when YouTube launched an AI-powered automated content policing tool that removes advertisements from content that falls into the company’s broad “Not Advertiser-Friendly” category, such as “sensitive social issues” or “tragedy and conflict.”
Kasarda and McCollum run two successful YouTube channels that focus solely on guns. Kasarda’s gun-review channel “InRangeTV” has more than 150,000 subscribers and McCollum’s “Forgotten Weapons” — which covers the "history of antique, obscure, and historically important firearms" — has more than 700,000. They both make content that violates the new rules, but they don’t have plans to change what they are doing — other than asking their subscribers for funding support.
“Watching a video is not an illegal act. Learning information or learning about how things work should not be an illegal act, unless we're wanting to move into a dark age. If we really want to call information dangerous, where does that stop?” Kasarda said.
While Kasarda and McCollum recognize that YouTube is a private company and has the right to police its content, they view these new rules as a dangerous slippery slope away from freedom of speech on the internet’s largest public square of video content.
VICE News visited the online gun-video duo from Tucson to talk about the climate for gun videos on the platform.
This segment originally aired April 9, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.