UPDATE: YouTube Defends Removing Livestreams of Richmond Gun-Rights Rally
As thousands of Second Amendment protesters flocked to the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond on Monday, YouTube livestreams of the protest started freezing or getting flat-out removed from the video platform.
"This video has been removed for violating YouTube's community guidelines," YouTube explained after taking down live coverage of the gun rights rally from WUSA9, a news channel in the Washington, D.C. area.
The WUSA9 coverage repeatedly stopped and then resumed, with this message repeating every time the video stopped.
The same phenomenon seemed to happen with many livestreams of the event. While a livestream may pause for any number of reasons — bad internet connection and buffering, for example — the WUSA9 video paused before YouTube took it down.
YouTube did not respond to PJ Media's request for comment on the issue.
Many commenters to the WUSA9 video noted, however, that videos covering the event may inadvertently violate YouTube's policies by capturing footage of firearms.
The social media site has adopted a broad policy against firearms promotion.
"Content intended to sell firearms, instruct viewers on how to make firearms, ammunition, and certain accessories, or instruct viewers on how to install those accessories is not allowed on YouTube," the policy states. "YouTube also doesn’t allow live streams that show someone holding, handling, or transporting a firearm."
Examples of forbidden content include "Live streams that feature someone holding or handling a firearm, regardless of whether or not they are firing it. Note: this does not include firearms in video games." In fact, YouTube has also announced it will ban "Live streams that feature someone transporting firearms from place to place, such as by carrying them or traveling with them by car, truck, or other vehicle. Note: this does not include firearms in video games."
Whatever your position on gun rights, media outlets should be able to cover a Second Amendment rally without getting blocked by YouTube. Carrying guns is not an illegal activity and protests like this should not be censored.
YouTube's action against the Richmond gun-rights protesters is only likely to incense Second Amendment activists. Like Gov. Ralph Northam's effort to crack down on gun rights, this censorship will only help turn Virginia red again.
Update 6:25 p.m.
In a statement to PJ Media, YouTube confirmed that it was taking down livestreams of the rally, citing the policy quoted above.
"This is in line with our policies regarding content featuring firearms on YouTube," Alex Joseph, communications manager at YouTube, told PJ Media in a statement. He went on to quote the policy directly: "YouTube also doesn’t allow live streams that show someone holding, handling, or transporting a firearm."
Tyler O'Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.