Jim Jordan demands YouTube answer if firearms policy change influenced by Bragg

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is seeking answers on whether YouTube changed some of its content moderation policies surrounding firearms due to the influence of government officials, particularly New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D).

Jordan, acting in his capacity as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee of Weaponization of the Federal Government, sent a letter to the legal counsel for YouTube parent company Alphabet on Tuesday asking for communications and records relating to the company’s “interactions with the Executive Branch and other entities regarding changes to its firearms content policy,” adding that the request would be responsive to an already issued subpoena that is “continuing in nature.”

Earlier this month, the Google-owned platform announced that it would age restrict “content showing the use of homemade firearms, automatic firearms, and certain firearm accessories,” and outright prohibit content “showing how to remove safety devices.”

“Recent reporting and other publicly available information suggests that YouTube’s decision to change its firearms policy may have been influenced by government officials and third parties interested in suppressing certain Second Amendment-related content,” Jordan wrote in the letter, first shared with The Hill.

He specifically cited Bragg — who brought the case in which former President Trump was found guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records in relation to a hush money payment in 2016 — previously writing to YouTube to revise its content moderation policies relating to firearms.

Bragg sent a letter to YouTube in April expressing concern about YouTube videos instructing how to make “ghost guns” — firearms that are assembled by private individuals and therefore do not have serial numbers. Bragg said that those videos should be removed and prevented from being uploaded, and that YouTube should also “stop recommending videos with violent content, including those modeling ghost guns, to children.”

After YouTube’s content moderation policy change announcement, Bragg applauded the change and thanked the platform for its “responsiveness and willingness to work with our office,” and his office said in a release that the policy change was in response to his request.

“Given that YouTube has censored First Amendment-protected speech as a result of government agencies’ requests and demands in the past, these revelations raise serious concerns about whether and to what extent the Executive Branch is working with third parties and other intermediaries to coerce and/or collude with YouTube to censor lawful speech regarding the Second Amendment and firearms,” Jordan said in the letter.

Bragg, Jordan also noted in the letter, had “hired the third highest-ranking Department of Justice official to assist in his partisan prosecution of President Trump,” alleging a connection between the state-level prosecutor and federal executive branch.

Republicans have previously also sought to connect Bragg’s state-level prosecution of Trump to the Department of Justice, which Attorney General Merrick Garland called a “conspiracy theory.”

The request for documents would be part of a “continuing” subpoena already issued by Jordan’s panel in February 2023, Jordan said.

Jordan has previously revealed records obtained as part of that subpoena, which he dubbed the “YouTube Files,” that included communications between the White House and YouTube officials about content moderation and algorithm recommendation policies.

A spokesperson from YouTube pointed to a previous statement in response to Jordan’s letter.

“These updates to our firearms policy are part of our continued efforts to maintain policies that reflect the current state of content on YouTube. For example, 3D printing has become more readily available in recent years so we’re expanding our restrictions on content involving homemade firearms. We regularly review our guidelines and consult with outside experts to make sure we are drawing the line at the right place,” the spokesperson said.

Updated at 3:46 p.m.

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