Shortly after noon on Wednesday, YouTube reinstated the popular gun channel Hickok45 and the entirety of its video content.
Just the day before, the video-sharing website had removed the channel based on what it said was “repeated violations of Google’s policies.” The removal of the channel was first reported late Tuesday night, but by Wednesday fans of Hickok45 have been whipped in a furor. Some gun rights advocates feared it was the beginning of a crackdown on gun-related content on YouTube, especially as President Barack Obama just recently unveiled details of new executive actions on gun control.
As one of the most popular gun channels on YouTube—with 1.7 million subscribers and an estimated 460 million total views—Hickok45’s supporters lent their considerable weight in urging YouTube to bring back the channel.
Just hours after the hashtag #FreeHickok45 started trending on social media, YouTube relented and silently restored the channel. With over 1,000 videos in the channel archive, the restoration came in pieces with various videos unavailable for up to a half-hour after the channel came back. Many YouTube users were also mysteriously blocked from seeing the channel, and Hickok45 could not be found from YouTube’s general search for hours afterwards.
Finally, by late Wednesday afternoon everything appeared to have returned to normal.
“We’re BACK! It was a long scary morning. I really don’t know what I’d do if I were not able to inflict lame humor upon millions of shooting enthusiasts every week! Life is fragile, especially ‘virtual’ life,'” Hickok45 wrote on his Facebook page.
The incident may have been a blessing in disguise for the YouTube channel. Many of those who responded to the #FreeHickok45 hashtag say they never knew about the channel beforehand, but expressed solidarity with other gun rights advocates to see it restored.
“Thanks to the articles about your channel being taken down you’ve gained a new follower,” one person commented on Facebook. “I’m eager to enjoy your content as a gun enthusiast myself! Free Advertising yay!”
The website Social Blade indicates that yesterday alone the Hickok45 channel gained 9,914 subscribers—roughly five times the number he usually gains per day.
Many others added that they contacted YouTube to voice their concerns about the channel’s removal.
One question remains—why exactly the channel was terminated in the first place? At first, some suggested that it may be connected to a video Hickok45 uploaded just hours before the channel was taken down. The 20-minute video is a review of the Remington RM380 and does not appear to differ from the channel’s usual style. You can watch it below:
Hickok45 himself believes that it may have something to do with Google+’s shareable content policies.
“Apparently, Google + is more sensitive about firearms related postings and such,” Hickok45 wrote in a 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.”
Google, which bought YouTube in 2006, has in recent years been integrating the video-sharing website with Google+, which has itself been criticized for its policy on gun-related content. Google+’s current policy makes it clear that any shareable content related to firearms is restricted and can be removed at its discretion. A search for Hickok45’s Google+ account now leads to a 404 error, despite the YouTube channel being restored.
For now, the channel’s temporary shutdown will remain a mystery until either YouTube or Hickok45 releases more information. OutdoorHub will keep you updated.