YouTube has changed its policies in an attempt to cut down on potentially dangerous challenges and pranks, Engadget reported on Tuesday, updating its rules to explicitly ban them from the site.
In a thread on the YouTube Help Community, a Google employee wrote that while the site already has rules banning “content that encourages violence or dangerous activities that may result in serious physical harm, distress or death,” it’s pushed out an update adding a section directly prohibiting challenges and pranks that could put people in serious danger or cause a child “to experience severe emotional distress”:
YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, but we need to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous. We’ve updated our external guidelines to make it clear that we prohibit challenges presenting a risk of serious danger or death, and pranks that make victims believe they’re in serious physical danger, or cause children to experience severe emotional distress.
While YouTube has previously removed videos related to specific challenges such as that one where people ate Tide Pods, the update appears intended to at least give the impression that it’s cracking down on the trend as a whole. The platform’s moderation team is infamously overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content on it, so whether this will work has yet to be determined.
Over the past few weeks, a particularly dumb challenge based on the Netflix horror movie Bird Box went viral, with internet randos recording videos mimicking pivotal scenes in which characters walked around blindfolded to avoid seeing a spooky monster (or ghost or alien or something, it’s unclear). The Bird Box challenge was spurred on in part by prominent YouTubers like the extremely annoying kidfluencer Jake Paul, who posted a video purporting to show himself driving and wandering through traffic in a blindfold, as well as other morons who posted videos roping their children into it. Netflix begged fans not to hurt themselves imitating the movie, but last week the potential danger became crystal clear when a 17-year-old-girl reportedly crashed a car doing the Bird Box challenge. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
According to the YouTube post, the new rules will be enforced immediately, but there will be a two-month grace period in which it will remove content in violation of the updated policies without applying strikes against the account holder. Content in retroactive violation of the updated policy may be removed, but that will not result in a strike.
Curiously, Paul’s video appears to have vanished from YouTube. However, TubeFilter wrote that “sources familiar with the matter,” (to the extent someone can be a source on Jake Paul) said the platform did not remove it.
Other updates also announced in the same post include applying strikes to account holders who post video thumbnails or link to outside content that “egregiously” violate YouTube rules. The same grace period will apply to those changes as well.