YouTube to ban Bird Box-style prank videos

News, YouTube

YouTube has updated its guidelines to ban prank and dangerous challenge videos. The Google-owned video platform said that while it is a home for light-hearted prank videos, it wanted to reinforce that any stunts that place people in danger are against site policy.

The platform has been home to a variety of challenges – such as the ice bucket challenge to raise money for charity – but one inspired by Netflix show Bird Box – where users are encouraged to carry out a range of activities, including driving, while blindfolded – has caused concerns.

In a new post to the FAQ section on its website, the company said: “YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, like Jimmy Kimmel’s Terrible Christmas Presents prank or the water bottle flip challenge.

“That said, we’ve always had policies to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous. Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are likely to result in serious harm, and today (we are) clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks.”

Last year a public awareness campaign was launched in the US after an increase in poisoning reports linked to a video challenge to eat detergent pods went viral on the site.

“We’ve updated our external guidelines to make it clear that challenges like the Tide pod challenge or the Fire challenge, that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances, have no place on YouTube,” the site said.

“We’ve made it clear that our policies prohibiting harmful and dangerous content also extend to pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury.

“We don’t allow pranks that make victims believe they’re in serious physical danger – for example, a home invasion prank or a drive-by shooting prank.

“We also don’t allow pranks that cause children to experience severe emotional distress, meaning something so bad that it could leave the child traumatised for life.”

YouTube is one of several social media and internet services that has been accused of failing to properly police its platform, with legislators in the UK and the US warning they may introduce regulation if firms do not become more proactive.

YouTube said it had worked with child psychologists to help develop its guidelines around the types of pranks which are acceptable for the site.

Videos that showed “the fake death of a parent or severe abandonment or shaming for mistakes” were cited as those that “crossed the line”.

Chris Price
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