YouTube has weighed into the contentious US gun debate by banning all videos that promote the selling and making of firearms.
The Google-owned video sharing platform updated its policy on firearm-related content this week to forbid links to weapon retailers, as well as pledging to remove all videos selling weapon accessories, including bump stocks for semi-automatic rifles.
Videos that show how to modify firearms are also banned.
The move is a clear stance on the gun control debate that calls for tighter gun ownership laws in the US following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Florida, which left 17 students and teachers dead.
YouTube said in a statement the new guidelines will come into effect in April.
“We routinely make updates and adjustments to our enforcement guidelines across all of our policies,” a YouTube spokeswoman said.
“While we’ve long prohibited the sale of firearms, we recently notified creators of updates we will be making around content promoting the sale or manufacture of firearms and their accessories, specifically, items like ammunition, gatling triggers, and drop-in auto sears,” she said.
The YouTube ban follows the US Justice Department’s recent decision after the Florida shooting to ban devices that speed up the pace of gunfire and allow semi-automatic guns to fire at a rate that mimics a fully automatic firearm.
The movements of students to call for stricter gun control has also sparked US businesses to distance themselves from the gun industry, dropping support for the National Rifle Association.
Major retailers including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart have taken steps to limit the sales of guns.
According to Bloomberg, the decision could prove costly for the video sharing site, with weapons bloggers attracting significant followings on YouTube.
Searches for “how to build a firearm” generated more than 25 million results each year, it reported.
The US National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has also condemned the move, calling it unconstitutional.
The NSSF has more than 5000 instructional videos on its YouTube channel.
“We see the real potential for the blocking of educational content that serves instructional, skill-building and even safety purposes,” the organisation said in a statement.
“Much like Facebook, YouTube now acts as a virtual public square. The exercise of what amounts to censorship, then, can legitimately be viewed as the stifling of commercial free speech, which has constitutional protection. Such actions also impinge on the Second Amendment.”