Update 1-6-2016: As of 12:50 p.m., Hickok45’s channel has been restored and the videos on it once again available for public viewing. The channel still cannot be found on YouTube’s search function however, and Hickok45’s Google+ account is still unavailable.
On Tuesday, fans of the popular gun channel Hickok45 logged into YouTube only to find that the channel has been removed, replaced with a message stating that the account was terminated due to “repeated violations of Google’s policies.”
Hickok45 first started his channel on YouTube in 2007 with the help of his son. Many of his earlier videos covered older guns made famous during the Wild West era, but eventually branched off into reviews of more modern firearms and even goofy—but beloved—traditions such as the annual gun-assisted Halloween pumpkin carving. By December of 2015, Hickok45 had uploaded hundreds of videos to YouTube and was one of the most popular gun-related channels on the website. According to the latest data, Hickok45 had over 1.5 million subscribers and millions of views on his videos.
The first inkling of trouble came shortly after Christmas. On December 28, Hickok45 wrote on his Facebook page that he was unable to access certain parts of his YouTube accounts. At the time, he wrote it off as being due to a bug.
“Again, I’ve tired lots of fixes, but I still cannot comment on YouTube vidoes, reply to comments, post a comment, answer a Private message, etc., on our channel or others,” He wrote. “I’ve logged out of Google + and back in, I’ve looked at 3rd Party cookies to make sure it’s unchecked, etc, I’ve used IE instead of Google Chrome, etc. I give up. Comes a point where I just don’t care anymore and do whatever the computer seems to want. Haven’t been able to ‘Like’ a video on YouTube for a year or two.”
Then on Tuesday, YouTube removed the entirety of Hickok45’s channel from public view with almost no explanation. It appears that not even Hickok45 himself knows exactly what got him banned from the website. He later speculated online that it may have something to do with Google+.
“Apparently, Google + is more sensitive about firearms related postings and such,” Hickok45 wrote in a short post on Facebook. “I never use Google+ and did not even realize the videos were being posted over there, I guess. I will keep you posted via Facebook here and the Hickok45andson channel. I have communicated with YouTube via email this morning, and hopefully, we’ll be able to get the channel back up soon. I had just posted a new video.”
Attempting to view Hickok45’s account on Google+ now leads to a 404 error.
YouTube and Google+ have been linked for years and in 2013, YouTube started requiring users to have a Google+ account in order to comment on videos. This requirement was later removed after a furious backlash from YouTube users, but the video-sharing website still interfaces with Google+ in many ways. Google+ has been criticized in the past for cracking down on gun-related content, and its current policy makes it clear that any shareable content related to firearms can be removed at its discretion.
“If your content promotes regulated goods and services, including alcohol, gambling, pharmaceuticals and unapproved supplements, tobacco, fireworks, weapons, or health/medical devices, you are responsible for applying the appropriate age and geographical restrictions for that content,” states Google+’s policy section. “If we receive a complaint that such content is targeting audiences in violation of applicable laws and regulations, we may remove or restrict the offending content or account.”
However, it is still unclear whether Google+ was connected in any way to Hickok45’s removal from YouTube. Hickok45 said he is currently in contact with YouTube and is working to resolve the situation, but it is unknown when, or if, the channel will be restored.
OutdoorHub will keep you updated as this story develops.