The gun industry is no stranger to controversy. From debates on gun control to legislative battles, the industry’s advocates and detractors are always in some form of discussion. Now, however, a new frontier has emerged where the gun industry feels besieged: social media platforms, specifically YouTube and Instagram.
“Ghost banning” is a term that has gained traction in recent times, especially among content creators on these platforms. Ghost banning, or shadow banning, is the practice where a platform limits the visibility of a user or their content without notifying them. For gun enthusiasts and industry channels, this means their videos or posts might not show up in search results, their content could be de-prioritized in feeds, or their notifications might not go out to subscribers.
Several YouTube channel owners within the gun industry have reported a significant drop in views and subscribers. While fluctuations in viewership are common, many believe that their content is being intentionally suppressed. This suspicion is not unfounded; YouTube has tightened its policies on gun-related content, categorizing many instructional videos on firearms as against community guidelines.
Instagram’s recent move further intensifies these concerns. The platform has started blocking accounts from being visible to non-followers based on content that supposedly violates their guidelines. For gun-related accounts, this means even a single post that Instagram deems inappropriate could severely limit the reach of the entire account. New users wouldn’t be able to discover or view these profiles unless they specifically search and follow them. This effectively silos these accounts, limiting their growth potential and reach.
Proponents argue that these measures are necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of the community, reducing the spread of potentially harmful content. Opponents, on the other hand, see it as a stifling of free speech and a biased move against the gun industry.
The crux of the matter is the balance between platform responsibility and freedom of expression. As private entities, platforms like YouTube and Instagram have the right to dictate their terms of service. However, when these terms disproportionately affect one industry or viewpoint, questions about fairness, transparency, and bias inevitably arise. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the tug-of-war between platforms and content creators is a space to watch.