TikTok teaches teenagers how to build fully automatic rifles and make “hollow point” ammunition
How-to videos teaching users how to modify assault weapons at home to make them fully automated, create their own ammunition, and buy potentially illegal weapon conversion kits are hosted and shared on TikTok, although they appear to violate the platform’s community guidelines .
TikTok is heavily saturated with gun content, and it appears the company is allowing much of that content to remain functionally unregulated. With the extreme right-wing militia content spiking on the platform, and reports that a third of users might be 14 years old or younger, it’s time for TikTok to make the safety of its community a priority.
TikTok’s community guidelines regarding firearms are dangerously unclear
There’s little transparency about how TikTok moderates the content of firearms, and the company itself has provided conflicting information. Gizmodo first reported the presence of gun content on TikTok and the company’s conflicting policies in May 2020, but the issues seem to have worsened since then.
According to TikTok’s Weapons Policy, the company prohibits “the display, advertising, or trading of firearms, ammunition, weapon accessories, or explosive weapons” and “instructions for making those weapons”.
This policy is followed by a contradicting statement that goes back to the initial hard line: “Allow content as part of a museum’s collection, worn by a police officer, at a military parade, or in a safe and controlled environment such as a shooting range.”
Immediately after this disclaimer, TikTok prohibits users from viewing firearms and gun accessories: “Do not post, upload, stream, or share any content that displays firearms, gun accessories, ammunition, or explosive weapons.” TikTok also prohibits “content that is buying, selling, trading.” or offer advertisements for firearms, accessories, ammunition, explosive weapons or instructions on how to make them “.
With TikTok’s gun policies appearing vague and inconsistent, consistent enforcement seems like an impossible task, leaving accounts with significant loopholes to bypass these restrictions.
The content of firearms on TikTok has billions of views
Hashtags used for gun content on TikTok appear to be unmoderated and have billions of views. The following hashtags contain unregulated gun content that is easy to find on the platform. (This is not a comprehensive list, but a selection of commonly used hashtags.)
Gun conversion kits for circumventing federal firearms laws are marketed on TikTok
CAA USA is a company that sells handgun conversion kits. This is a workaround to bypass federal restrictions that allow handguns to use braces or a stock and be fired from the shoulder like a rifle. In 2019, a gunman used a similar workaround in mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio that killed nine people and injured dozen. Because of the speed at which the shooting took place – it took only 30 seconds – the shooter was described in early reports as having an “assault rifle”. It was only later discovered that the shooter’s weapon was technically a pistol with a workaround to “use a barrel shorter than the federal minimum for a rifle.”
On TikTok, the CAA account has over 33,000 followers and directs TikTok users to a website to buy its products. It is also pointed out there that these conversion kits can be used to manufacture a “short barrel rifle” that “may not be lawfully owned if it is not available is registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. ”
Changes to attack weapons
You can also find content with weapon modifications on TikTok. In this example a user appears to be converting his weapon from a semi-automatic weapon to a fully automatic weapon, in the background Judas Priesters playing “Breaking the Law”. The following video in the user’s account shows how he shoots a fully automatic firearm.
Build your own weapon
In other cases, users can demonstrate processes of building their own firearms. A user who appears to be a supporter of the Three Percenter militia movement uploaded a video of him building his own gun, allegedly using parts bought at a hardware store. “I lost all of mine [guns] In an election accident, there is nothing to see here except a receipt from a $ 40 home deposit. This time at 2k without tags removed ”, it says in the heading. The video ends with the viewer being shown that the improvised weapon can fire. It has over 1 million views.
In another video, a user appears to make a firearm with a 3D printer and subtitles “# ar15” and “# 3dprinting”.
DIY ammunition or “#HomeMadePew”
The hashtag “#HomeMadePew” refers to homemade ammunition and has over 10 million views.
This user explains how to make homemade ammunition (while showing the process of making his own ammunition) and then gives detailed instructions in the comments section. The user described the ammunition as “hollow points” in the comments.
Ammunition companies use TikTok to sell their products
Ammunition companies and dealers also market their products on TikTok. For example, LAX Ammunition has a popular account with over 74,000 followers and directs users to its website linked to TikTok. The company also updates users about ammunition it has in stock and for sale through its website.