People who want to build untraceable “ghost guns” can easily access how-to tutorials on the internet’s largest video sharing platform, YouTube, a disconcerting fact for the law enforcement community.
Despite the platform banning and prohibiting such content three years ago, it appears as if uploaders have found a way to steadily bypass YouTube censorship.
According to an investigation by NBC News, the site still hosts a dozen of videos, which have racked up over a combined 4 million views, which demonstrate how to assemble ghost guns.
NBC immediately sent the video links to YouTube’s parent company, Google, asking for comment on how the site enforces its firearms content ban. The site then promptly removed the videos in question.
Law enforcement authorities have cited the internet as the most important tool for ghost gun building and trafficking.
After arresting ghost gun trafficker William Pillus, 23, accused of building homemade 9 mm handgun kits and selling them, police say he acquired most of his knowledge from YouTube.
Ghost guns are a problem as they are commonly linked to mass shootings, attacks on police, and gang-related shootings, and cannot be traced in a forensics database due to their lack of an identifying serial number.
Despite YouTube’s attempt to ban the videos, uploads keep coming and evading censors until they are flagged. Some are even reuploaded to the original poster’s own channel. MSNCB analyst and former federal ATF special agent Jim Cavanaugh criticized the company.
“What does it say about your corporate moral leadership if you cannot live up to your own corporate ideals?” he questioned.
YouTube replied in a statement that it depends on its “advanced machine learning” censor and reports from users to flag videos, which employees then review to decide whether to remove the content. With over 500 hours of content uploaded every minute to the site, prohibited content cannot be removed instantaneously.
“It’s surprising to me that YouTube wouldn’t be looking at this more closely and enforcing a rule that they themselves set,” president of the National Police Foundation Jim Burch said. The NPF is a non-partisan law enforcement think thank.
The ATF estimates that 10,000 privately made firearms were recovered in 2019 alone, with the number of guns on the streets most likely growing. Local law enforcement agencies have also been busy tracking the illegal guns.
To address this issue, the Biden administration recently proposed new restrictions to regulate the sale of homemade gun kits in the same way that firearm purchasers are required to pass background checks. The rule would also force gun kit manufacturers to add serial numbers to the parts. This rule is currently pending.