Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, wants to meet with YouTube CEO Neil Mohan to discuss why the website allows videos about how “ghost guns” are made to be posted and why its algorithm targets them to underage viewers who watch video game content. Ghost guns are firearms assembled using 3D printed parts or components purchased as kits. This means they don’t have serial numbers, making them nearly impossible to track, and they don’t need any kind of background check to be acquired.

IN letter sent to Mohan (PDF) requesting a meeting, Bragg referred to a study conducted by Technical Transparency Project in 2023, where he created four test YouTube accounts and gave them the profiles of 14-year-old and 9-year-old boys. Apparently, after playing at least 100 gaming videos, YouTube’s algorithm started recommending how-to videos for them on how to make ghost guns. It doesn’t matter if they just watched, say, Call of Duty gameplay videos and has never interacted with any content involving real weapons. YouTube still pushed real gun content to their accounts, as well as other violent videos like those of school shootings and serial killers, even if they were supposed to be minors. Bragg also called YouTube’s attention to the fact that there is no way for guardians to turn off website recommendations in parental controls.

Many young people investigated for gun possession in New York said they learned how to make ghost guns from YouTube, Bragg wrote. Although the website removes these videos when they are flagged by gun safety groups, prosecutors said YouTube should be more proactive in removing them, should make sure they are blocked from uploading in the future and should provide viewers way to turn off recommendations. Especially since the website has a policy that prohibits uploading videos intended to sell firearms or instruct viewers on how to make them. YouTube said New York Daily News in a statement that it would “carefully review” the videos the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office shared with the company and that it remained committed to “removing any content that violates [its] policies.”