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Senators call on YouTube to crack down on ‘ghost gun’ videos


Five Democratic senators, led by Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, have called on YouTube to more firmly enforce its restriction on videos teaching how to create untraceable “ghost guns,” which are weapons that cannot be traced.

An NBC News investigation in December found dozens of YouTube videos that violated the site’s guidelines by showing how to assemble “ghost guns,” which are illegal in most states and nearly impossible to trace because they lack serial numbers. The senators’ letter, which was sent to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on Monday, follows the investigation. These guns, which can be constructed at home from a kit that can be purchased online without a background check, are becoming a significant source of concern for police enforcement as gun violence continues to climb.

Even while YouTube promptly deleted the particular videos referenced by NBC News and several films that the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety highlighted in a December letter to the company, other videos with similar content remain on the platform.

Senators from both parties wrote to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki this week, stating that congressional staff members had spoken with company representatives, who had promised to review the platform’s videos for possible violations of the company’s guidelines, which have prohibited showing how to build guns since 2018. Following that study, however, a researcher discovered “dozens” of further videos on how to construct ghost weapons, according to the letter sent to the editor.

The senators stated that YouTube’s prohibitions on gun-related content “must be implemented — and enforced vigorously — if they are to make any impact at all.”

YouTube cannot be entirely reactive, the letter continued, removing these types of videos only when news outlets draw attention to them, gun violence prevention advocates send letters listing specific YouTube videos that violate its Community Guidelines, or members of Congress contact the company to express their concerns about such videos.

NBC News received an email from YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi on Tuesday, in which she stated that the company removed more than 280,000 videos in the third quarter of 2021 that violated its rules against content that it deemed harmful or dangerous, including videos that violated the company’s firearms policy.

In his statement, Choi stated that “this effort is ongoing” and that our teams will continue working hard to strengthen the policies and systems that allow us to promptly recognise and delete violative films.”