Characteristics of gun advertisements on social media: systematic search and content analysis of Twitter and YouTube posts

GVPedia Study Database

Characteristics of gun advertisements on social media: systematic search and content analysis of Twitter and YouTube posts

Category: Behavior, Gun Markets|Journal: Journal of Medical Internet Research (full text)|Author: C Dabrowski, J Kalin, L Jordan|Year: 2020

Background

Although gun violence has been identified as a major public health concern, the scope and significance of internet gun advertising is not known.

 

Objective

This study aimed to quantify the characteristics of gun advertising on social media and to compare the reach of posts by manufacturers with those of influencers.

 

Methods

Using a systematic search, we created a database of recent and popular Twitter and YouTube posts made public by major firearm manufacturers and influencers. From our sample of social media posts, we reviewed the content of the posts on the basis of 19 different characteristics, such as type of gun, presence of women, and military or police references. Our content analysis summarized statistical differences in the information conveyed in posts to compare advertising approaches across social media platforms.

 

Results

Sample posts revealed that firearm manufacturers use social media to attract audiences to websites that sell firearms: 14.1% (131/928; ±2.9) of Twitter posts, 53.6% (228/425; ±6.2) of YouTube videos, and 89.5% (214/239; ±5.1) of YouTube influencer videos link to websites that facilitate sales. Advertisements included women in efforts to market handguns and pistols for the purpose of protection: videos with women included protection themes 2.5 times more often than videos without women. Top manufacturers of domestic firearms received 98 million channel views, compared with 6.1 billion channel views received by the top 12 YouTube influencers.

 

Conclusions

Firearm companies use social media as an advertising platform to connect viewers to websites that sell guns. Gun manufacturers appropriate YouTube servers, video streaming services, and the work of YouTube influencers to reach large audiences to promote the widespread sale of consumer firearms. YouTube and Twitter subsidize gun advertising by offering server and streaming services at no cost to gun manufacturers, to the commercial benefit of Google and Twitter’s corporate ownership.

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