YouTube will ‘ramp up’ enforcement of its policies against dangerous challenges and pranks

YouTube announced several policy updates today, including more stringent enforcement of its ban on videos of dangerous challenges and pranks.

In a FAQ posted to its support site, YouTube wrote “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.” Its policies also extend to pranks “with a perceived danger of serious physical injury,” like home invasion or drive-by shooting pranks.

While YouTube did not mention it, its announcement comes the day after a teenager crashed a car while driving blindfolded for the Bird Box challenge, inspired by the Netflix movie of the same name. The meme, which involves doing different things while blindfolded, became popular enough that Netflix itself issued a warning (“PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE”) earlier this month.

YouTube also said it bans videos of pranks that can “cause children to experience severe emotional distress, meaning something so bad it could leave the child traumatized for life.” The platform said it worked with child psychologists “to develop guidelines around the types of pranks that cross this line. Examples include the fake death of a parent or severe abandonment or shaming for mistakes.

The psychological well-being of children featured in videos gained attention in 2017 when DaddyOFive, a YouTube channel run by Mike and Heather Martin, was taken down after users became concerned about the abusive nature of the pranks played by the Martins on their young children. The Martins ended up losing custody of two of the children, who were returned to their biological mother, and entering an Alford plea to child neglect charges, resulting in five years of supervised probation.

In addition to updating its pranks and challenges policy, YouTube said it will also begin issuing strikes for custom thumbnails that violate policies by showing pornography or graphic violence, as well as external sites linked to YouTube that don’t follow community guidelines.

YouTubers have two months during which videos that violate those guidelines will be removed, but they won’t be issued a strike. After the grace period is up, videos will be removed and their creators may also be issued a strike.