×

YouTube Officially Bans Life-Threatening Pranks and Stunts, Like Tide Pod and Dangerous ‘Bird Box’ Challenges

YouTube has long had a policy banning harmful and dangerous content. But now it has explicitly told users that prank or challenge videos that could lead to death or serious physical injury are off-limits.

On Tuesday, the video platform issued an update explaining that the prohibition applies to challenges like the Tide Pod challenge, in which people have eaten the detergent, or the so-called “fire challenge,” in which someone is shown setting themselves aflame. The revised policy also comes after the #BirdBoxChallenge went viral, in which people emulate the characters in Netflix’s original movie “Bird Box” by performing tasks while wearing a blindfold — a trend that police said resulted in a Utah teenager crashing her car while blindfolded last week.

“Challenges that present an apparent risk of death are not allowed on YouTube,” the Google-owned video service says in an update to its guidelines on “harmful or dangerous content.” That ban extends to pranks that “lead victims to believe they are in physical danger or that can cause real physical harm,” like a home-invasion prank or one simulating a drive-by shooting.

In addition, YouTube specifically said content featuring a child participating in dangerous challenges “that pose an imminent risk of injury or bodily harm” as well as pranks that “may cause emotional distress to children” are not allowed.

Earlier this month, Netflix issued a warning about people engaging in the “Bird Box” challenge. “Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE,” Netflix wrote in a Jan. 2 tweet. “We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl” — the two children in Sandra Bullock’s care — “have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

A YouTube rep clarified that “Bird Box” challenges aren’t categorically banned on the platform, as long as the videos comply with the stated policy. According to YouTube, it did not fine-tune the policy on dangerous and harmful content in response to any specific challenge or trend. “We heard feedback from creators that we could provide some clarity on certain community guidelines, so we published additional materials detailing when a challenge becomes too dangerous for YouTube, and when the emotional harm caused by a prank crosses the line,” the spokesman said.

YouTube said violations of the ban on dangerous pranks and challenges will result in a “community strike” against a channel; accounts that receive three strikes in 90 days will be terminated under the policy. Over the next two months, challenges and pranks that violate YouTube’s community guidelines will be removed but the channel will not receive a strike. YouTube also said content posted prior to the policy update may be removed but channel owners will not receive a strike.

In issuing the updated guidance, YouTube noted that many challenges and pranks are perfectly OK, citing Jimmy Kimmel’s “Terrible Christmas Presents” prank or the water-bottle-flip challenge.

Also Tuesday, YouTube issued updates on two other guidelines, violations of which will result in strikes. First, custom thumbnail images must follow its overall community guidelines — which means that a thumbnail image that “egregiously violates policies,” such as with porn or graphic violence, is prohibited. Second, YouTube said external sites linked to from videos also must follow community guidelines, so links to sites with porn, malware or spam are likewise verboten.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • fundo logo

    Google‘s Area 120 Is Testing Fundo, a Crowdfunding Service for Creators (EXCLUSIVE)

    Google’s skunkworks lab Area 120 has been quietly testing an events-centric crowdfunding service for YouTubers, Variety has learned. Called Fundo, the service allows creators to invite their fans to virtual meet & greet sessions and other paid online events. A Google spokesperson confirmed the testing in a statement provided to Variety: “One of the many [...]

  • Telling Lies - Logan Marshall-Green

    Sam Barlow's 'Telling Lies' Government-Surveillance Thriller Game Sets Release Date

    After more than two years in the works, “Telling Lies” — the investigative thriller from acclaimed game creator Sam Barlow — is ready to take the stage. The game, produced with and released by Annapurna Interactive, will be available next Friday, Aug. 23, via Steam and Apple’s Mac and iOS app stores. “Telling Lies” will [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Will Stop Letting Copyright Holders Seize Revenue via Manual Claims on Very Short Music Clips

    YouTube is pushing back against overzealous copyright policing by music companies. Starting in mid-September, the video giant will forbid copyright holders from making manual claims to commandeer revenue generated by YouTube videos that include very short music clips (e.g., five seconds of a song) or “unintentional” music (like music from passing cars). “One concerning trend [...]

  • Chelsea Handler memoir book buy online

    Chelsea Handler Bonds With Alexa in iHeartRadio Smart Speaker Promo

    iHeartRadio has teamed up with Amazon to promote Chelsea Handler’s podcast “Life Will Be The Death Of Me.” Beginning this Thursday, users of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker and other devices with Alexa built-in can opt to get their mornings started with Handler cracking jokes and exchanging banter with the smart assistant. Users simply have to [...]

  • David Messinger, Activision Blizzard

    Activision Blizzard Hires CAA Veteran David Messinger as CMO

    Activision Blizzard tapped David Messinger, a former 15-plus-year veteran of CAA, as its first corporate-wide chief marketing officer. Messinger, based in Santa Monica, reports to Coddy Johnson, Activision Blizzard’s president and COO. It’s the first time the video-game company has appointed a CMO who will oversee the global marketing operations across all of Activision Blizzard [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content