YouTube Is Changing Its Policy on Cursing

Not all foul language will be treated the same, the site says.

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Dan Avery
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YouTube has revised its policy on profanity in monetized videos.

James Martin/CNET

YouTube is lightening up on profanity. In an update this week to its policy on advertiser-friendly content, the Google-owned company said creators can be a little freer with their potty mouths and still monetize their videos.

In November, YouTube updated its profanity guidelines to lump all curse words together, whether you were saying "shit" or dropping an f-bomb.

If any foul language appeared in the first seven seconds or was uttered "consistently," according to the regulations, your video could be demonetized. (Profanity in your thumbnails or title cards could also get you dinged.)

But in a video explainer Tuesday, YouTube monetization policy lead Conor Kavanagh said the company had gotten feedback that the regulations were too severe.

"Upon reviewing our own enforcement data, we found the profanity policy resulted in a stricter approach than we intended," Kavanagh said. Now, he added, not all foul language will be treated the same.

"Moderate" profanity  -- words like "bitch," "douchebag," "asshole," and "shit," according to Kavanaugh -- won't get you demonetized.

Most profanity used within prerecorded music or stand-up video content is safe, too. 

Putting naughty text in your thumbnail or title won't automatically block your video from ad revenue, though it may limit it.

A clip with swear words that appear after the first seven seconds, regardless of how severe, can still get ad revenue, unless they're used "repeatedly throughout the video," Kavanagh explained.

Censored profanity and mild oaths like "hell" or "damn" in the title, thumbnail or video is fine, but "fuck" is still considered unfriendly to advertisers. 

Any YouTube videos that received demonetization stickers will be re-reviewed this week, Gizmodo reported.

The policy change doesn't refer to hateful or derogatory language, YouTube said, which is still "not suitable for advertising."