By: José Niño
In 2020, gun owners have many enemies.
It’s no secret that government entities pose threats to those of us who exercise our Second Amendment rights. Just taking a look at the bills filed in your state legislature can give you an idea of the lengths anti-gunners will go to strip us of our civil liberties.
In the Trump era, there have seen some interesting changes in the way the gun control crowd has changed their strategy. Having been largely shut out of power in D.C., gun control organizations have logically shifted their energy to lower levels of government, such as state legislatures and city councils.
Seasoned political operatives understand the importance of building political power bases at all levels of governments. This kind of work is what leads to major victories further down the line. But the forces of gun control have not just limited their efforts to traditional political activism. They are now operating outside of the conventional realm of politics by using corporate America to advance anti-gun causes.
Big Tech has been at the vanguard of this privatized form of persecution levied at Second Amendment supporters. Just look at Karl Kasarda, who ran the YouTube channel InRange TV. Fox News reported his channel “was wiped without warning in early 2018.” Kasarda pulled no punches when he talked about Big Tech’s suffocating control over political discourse:
"The issue of oligarchical control over the Internet and all the impact over the ability to use it for free speech is going to only get worse.”
Kasarda referred to the "big five" — Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube — as the main actors behind the recent wave of digital censorship directed towards the Second Amendment community and similar right-wing groups.
"It is unclear what the rules are," Kasarda said. "Specifically, with YouTube, they pretty much enforce whatever they feel based on their bias of the day. Regardless of your personal belief, firearms and their accessories are legal in the United States. So why are we seeing continuing restrictions and challenges towards content about something demonstrably legal yet not against that which is clearly illegal?"
Starting in 2018, after the Parkland mass shooting, YouTube began to ban videos that "promote or link to websites selling firearms and accessories.” In addition, it prohibited instructional on how to build firearms.
"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 company’s policy stated. "YouTube shouldn't be used as a platform to sell firearms or accessories noted below. YouTube also doesn't allow live streams that show someone holding, handling, or transporting a firearm."
Google classifies firearms content as "non-family safe," and Twitter has boasted about its prohibition of "the promotion of weapons and weapon accessories globally."
Facebook, which is the parent company of Instagram, also bans the "sale or trade of firearms, ammunition, and explosives between private individuals."
Due to the arbitrary nature of Facebook policies, there has been a noticeable chilling effect that has affected firearms companies big and small.
Tom Taylor, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of commercial sales for SIG Sauer, believes the social media censorship of firearms companies is getting way out of hand.
"Instagram and Facebook, Google and YouTube, Twitter, Yahoo – or virtually any mainstream search engine – is not allowing firearm manufacturers to advertise or promote via paid activities,” Taylor said. “No sponsored or paid posts are allowed. These platforms are built to be optimized by paid advertising so, the firearm industry is almost completely dependent on organic reach and grassroots efforts.”
Taylor revealed that the situation is only getting worse as these companies find more avenues to manipulate social media algorithms to censor gun-related content.
"Many companies attempt to use hashtags that are unrelated to restricted categories/topics or work with non-firearm specific partners," Taylor explained. "Even then, if it is used at a high enough rate, a company may be warned, flagged, and/or blocked, that is shadowbanned."
The threats gun owners face in 2020 are unconventional. With Big Tech jumping on the anti-gun craze, gun grabbers have plenty of ways to attack our freedoms.
Although private enterprise has America great, it can be used to advance political causes that are detrimental to our liberties. But not all hope is lost. Gun owners can flex their economic muscles by boycotting businesses that participate in the anti-gun-frenzy. Similarly, firearms organizations and business will have to adapt and turn to snail mail, email marketing, and other forms of promotion that are not as reliant on traditional social media platforms.
It’s tough, but that’s the way things are in 2020 gun politics.
José Niño is a Venezuelan American freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.