YouTube generally bans content with hate speech, bullying and nudity, among other categories that violate its community guidelines. However, it makes some exceptions — allowing such otherwise prohibited content if YouTube deems the videos to have “educational, documentary, scientific or artistic” merit.
The Google-owned video giant has been accused of inconsistently applying its policies to all creators. YouTube insists is treats all content the same, regardless of the speaker, political viewpoint, their background, their position, or their affiliations.
However, there’s a carve-out to allow certain material if YouTube finds there’s “a compelling reason with visible context for viewers,” YouTube’s head of global content policy Michael Grosack wrote in a blog post Thursday.
YouTube often refers to the exception as “EDSA,” which stands for “Educational, Documentary, Scientific or Artistic,” according to Grosack.
In the blog post, Grosack provided examples of when it allows otherwise violative content:
- Bullying: YouTube may allow content that shows insults or bullying directed at kids as part of an educational anti-bullying campaign (provided the minors are actors or their identity hidden).
- Hate speech and violence: The platform may allow a documentary about World War II that features speeches from Nazi leaders if the documentary “provides historical context and does not aim to support views promoted by the Third Reich.”
- Nudity: YouTube does not allow nudity that is “meant to be sexually gratifying (like pornography)” but there are instances where nudity can have scientific value, like a video with imagery of a medical professional conducting a physical examination. In addition, YouTube may allow videos posted by a photographer exhibiting nude portraits or a music video featuring nude or semi-nude dancers “for artistic purposes.”
- Derogatory language based on race, sexuality, religion: Attacks targeting an individual with slurs based on race, sexuality, religion or other protected attributes are banned. But a comedy “roast” using such terms toward a subject “who is visible as a willing participant may be allowed, as we consider this to be artistic expression.”
To help determine whether a video might qualify for an EDSA exception, “we look at multiple factors, including the video title, descriptions and the context provided in the video’s audio or imagery,” Grosack wrote. “These decisions are nuanced and context is important. And we know it can be tricky for creators and viewers to understand why one video stays up while another is taken down.”
YouTube does not automatically grant EDSA exceptions for a video solely because it is part of a news broadcast or conference, Grosack noted. For some categories — like videos containing hate speech, graphic violence, content from violent criminal organizations, or COVID-19 medical misinformation — “we have a higher bar, given the dangers they present to the public,” he wrote. Such videos must include context in the imagery or audio of the video itself and it must be clear to the viewer that the creator’s aim is not to “promote or support the content that violates our policies,” Grosack said. For example, content telling people that the COVID-19 does not exist is allowed only if the content’s audio or imagery “also directly refutes these claims or gives greater weight to the consensus from health and medical authorities that the claims are untrue.”
Meanwhile, content that endangers children or any content with footage of deadly violence filmed by the perpetrator is never allowed on YouTube.
“We hope this explanation will help viewers and creators better understand how we make these decisions to keep educational, documentary, scientific, and artistic content thriving on YouTube,” Grosack added.