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YouTube cracks down on ‘harmful and dangerous’ challenges and pranks

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These new guidelines come right after an influx of ‘Bird Box challenge’ videos

Jake Paul

Viral challenge and prank videos have been a staple of YouTube for years, but on the tail of the controversial “Bird Box challenge,” the platform announced that it will start to crack down on “harmful and dangerous” prank videos.

“We’ve always had policies to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous,” reads the YouTube guidelines. “Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are likely to result in serious harm, and today clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks.”

YouTube’s guidelines now further detail which of these popular videos push the line, including challenges such as the Tide Pod challenge and the Fire challenge — anything “that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances.”

As for pranks, videos that make the victims believe they’re in serious danger or cause severe emotional distress to children (further clarified with examples like faking the death of a parent) are no longer acceptable on the platform.

Creators who host these types of videos on their channels will receive a grace period of two months to clean up their channel. No channel will receive a strike during this time period, but YouTube will remove any video uploaded that contains this sort of content going forward. Previous uploads with “harmful and dangerous” content may also be removed, but will not receive strikes. If videos or channels mistakenly receive strikes, according to their creators, creators are allowed to appeal.

This strike policy doesn’t remove a channel from the platform, unless the creator continues to post violating videos in a short span of time. One strike means a channel cannot host livestreams; two within a 90-day period means the channel cannot upload videos for three weeks. If a channel receives three strikes in 90 days, then it will be terminated.

While a YouTube spokesperson told NBC News that these updated guidelines are not in response to any particular trend or challenge, they also come right after a wave of so-called “Bird Box challenge” videos. Named after Netflix movie-turned-meme Bird Box, the Bird Box challenge prompted notable YouTubers such as Jake Paul to wear blindfolds for extended periods of time — often doing dangerous tasks like driving and walking through traffic.

YouTube stresses that relatively harmless pranks and challenges, such as the mannequin challenge or Jimmy Kimmel’s Terrible Christmas Presents, will still be allowed on the platform.

The full FAQ for the new guidelines can be read on YouTube’s support site.