YouTube updates guidelines to address dangerous pranks, challenges

YouTube says challenges that put users at risk of serious injury have no place on the site.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read

YouTube removed a video that showed internet personality Jake Paul driving a car while blindfolded.


YouTube wants users to know that dangerous viral challenges or pranks like the Tide Pod challenge have no place on the video platform.

The Google-owned video-sharing site said Tuesday it had updated its community guidelines to clarify that content containing pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury violate YouTube policy prohibiting content that encourages violence or dangerous activities. The updated policy comes amid a spate of Bird Box challenges, in which participants go around wearing blindfolds.

"YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, but we need to make sure what's funny doesn't cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous," YouTube said in a blog post Tuesday announcing the update.

The policy clarification makes it clear that YouTube doesn't allow the posting of pranks that make people feel they're in serious physical danger, such as a home invasion or drive-by shooting. It also prohibits pranks that cause severe emotional distress to children -- anything that could leave the child traumatized for life.

YouTube has seen an uptick in the past year of people posting recordings of themselves engaging in dangerous challenges. A year ago, YouTube began removing videos of the so-called Tide Pod challenge, which involves people putting their health at risk by eating the brightly colored laundry detergent packs known as pods. Liquid laundry packets or capsules contain highly concentrated, toxic detergent that can result in injury, including burns, loss of consciousness, excessive vomiting and difficulty breathing.  

The policy clarification comes amid another viral fad, in which fans of the Netflix movie Bird Box mimic characters in the movie who wear blindfolds to escape a sinister force that turns anyone who sees it suicidal. While most of the mentions of the challenge are based around jokes, some videos are a bit more extreme.

YouTube personality Jake Paul last week posted a video of himself walking into busy traffic blindfolded and driving a car while also blindfolded. Another challenge video shows a woman burning herself on a heater.

The activity led Netflix earlier this month to issue a statement urging copycats to be careful not to hurt themselves imitating the film.

Security: Stay up-to-date on the latest in breaches, hacks, fixes and all those cybersecurity issues that keep you up at night.

Blockchain Decoded: CNET looks at the tech powering bitcoin -- and soon, too, a myriad services that will change your life.