Week in Review: March 23, 2018

by Dan Bateyko

YouTube set to restrict videos promoting the sale and manufacturing of firearms

YouTube announced a change in its policy concerning content featuring firearms which will go live next month, reports the New York Times. The new restrictions come on the heels of new YouTube moderation policies on hoax videos, after a number of conspiracy theories circulated on the platform following the Parkland shooting.

While YouTube had already banned the sale of firearms through the platform and blocked videos instructing users how to alter their firearms discharge rate, the new policy will prohibit even further certain content featuring firearms. According to YouTube’s support page, videos that intend to sell firearms and certain firearm accessories, videos providing instruction in manufacturing and converting firearms into automatic firing, and videos instructing viewers on how to assemble firearms will all be prohibited on the website.

In response to the news and seeking a platform, prominent gun vloggers announced that they will move their videos to PornHub, a pornography website, reports the BBC. Other platforms have made similar moves in recent years. According to The New York Times report, “In 2016, Facebook announced a ban on private gun sales on its flagship website as well as on Instagram, the photo-sharing social network it owns. Anti-gun activists have complained that sellers still found ways around Facebook’s ban.”

U.S. Senate passes FOSTA

The U.S. Senate approved the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) which will make websites liable for knowingly hosting sex trafficking on their platforms, reports Wired. The bill, which contains language adapted from the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), has been the subject of controversy as it amends what Wired calls a “bedrock tech law”—Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes website from legal liability for their users’ posts and content.

In a joint statement in support of the bill, advocacy groups and trafficking survivors wrote that “Section 230 has allowed the Wild West of the Internet to proliferate with no incentive to keep the dark side of technology at bay.” However, civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have opposed the bill, arguing that it does not help fight sex trafficking and would lead to greater censorship of user speech. In a blog post posted after the bill passed, EFF writes that “no matter what methods platforms use to mitigate their risk, one thing is certain: when platforms choose to err on the side of censorship, marginalized voices are censored disproportionately.”

FOSTA’s approval has already caused tech companies to change their policies; the popular website Craigslist removed its personals section, redirecting users to a statement about personal section misuse: “We can't take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day.”