For those that don’t know, TikTok is probably the hottest social media app in the game right now. It’s especially popular amongst the deeply coveted 18-24 year old demographic. However, for firearms enthusiasts and creators, it’s been difficult, due to TikTok’s gun policy that would often delist or restrict videos featuring firearms.

Viral Content Changes the Narrative

However, in the past few weeks, TikTok’s gun policy seems to have changed. To be clear, this isn’t a specific policy that the brand itself publishes. Rather, it’s how its algorithm promotes or doesn’t promote content. Prior to the war in Ukraine, any content featuring actual firearms would get pushed down in the algorithm. Suddenly, that’s all changed.

The reason the algorithm changed? War. To explain, we’ll need to take a brief detour into how social media algorithms work.

Gaming the System

In very broad strokes, the algorithm that drives TikTok works based on what content you interact with. It starts with a broad funnel, and then as you click, watch, etc it picks more content that “matches” whatever you already watched.

Unless that content was related to civilian firearms use. In that case, you had to really aggressively curate your feed to see that content, and even then creators that made gun content for TikTok would frequently see their engagement restricted.

How the War Changed That

TikTok’s gun policy suddenly became a lot more liberal in the last few weeks. Content from firearms users started to pop up in people’s feeds along side genuine footage from the war in Ukraine. This happens because as smart as the algorithm is, it’s not that smart. Without direct human input, it has a hard time discerning real world war footage from a dude on a square range in plates with an AK74.

Why This Matters

In the long run, it probably doesn’t matter that much. But for firearms industry creators, it’s an interesting example of how the social media feeds can be manipulated unintentionally. Viral videos from Ukraine that resemble footage of Americans training push each other up in the TikTok algorithm. TikTok’s gun policy can’t keep up with that, so for a time we’re seeing more pro-freedom content on the app. How long it will last before the anti-gun censors get to it is anyone’s guess.

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