Youtube Bans Dangerous Pranks After Flock of ‘Bird Box’ Dares

Update To Community Guidelines

YouTube has decided to tighten its community guidelines on dangerous pranks and challenges after a flock of Bird Box challenge imitators. Netflix’s horror movie, Bird Box, has characters navigating blindfolded to avoid seeing a monster and is the latest in a long line of content which has gone viral sparking imitators, as shown in the police tweet below.

In its updated community advice, YouTube states that viral challenges and pranks, especially those with a perceived danger of physical injury, need to avoid crossing the line from funny into also being harmful or dangerous. As I see it, the difference between real and perceived danger is at the heart of the problem. As a content compliance professional, I know that a so-called YouTube ‘prank’ probably has been edited to appear real and may even use stunt actors so that the on screen artists are in no danger. However, there’s no onus on the creators to make these things transparent to viewers as there would be for, say, an Ofcom licensed channel.

Comparison to other platforms

When you watch a programme produced for television or an on-demand provider, there is a certain tacit acknowledgement of the level of production which has gone into it and often a suspension of your disbelief to accompany it. If you feel that the programme promotes unsafe imitable behaviour, you know you can make a complaint to the relevant broadcaster or regulator – there is a reasonable expectation of accountability. When you watch a YouTube video, because of the varied nature of content, videography and production styles on the platform, you are not necessarily aware of how simulated a scenario is. Nor is there any real sense of accountability on the video distributor’s site, beyond being able to flag videos for inappropriate content. In some cases this has led viewers to flood the comments sections of controversial videos, as well as the creator’s social media pages.

And while we’re at it

YouTube has also cracked down on custom thumbnail images of porn and graphic violence. Ditto, external links to porn, spam or malware. Violation could lead to strikes, and, ultimately, multiple strikes to account termination. YouTube’s own challenge, I suppose, will be keeping up its enforcement with the tide of content on its platform.