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After 'Bird Box' challenge, YouTube to crack down on 'dangerous' pranks

Image: A man stands in front of YouTube's logo at an office in London
A man stands in front of YouTube's logo at an office in London on Jan. 5, 2016. Copyright Chris Ratcliffe Bloomberg via Getty Images file
Copyright Chris Ratcliffe Bloomberg via Getty Images file
By Kalhan Rosenblatt with NBC News Tech and Science News
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YouTube is giving its content creators two months to review and clean up prank and challenge videos that violate its new rules.


YouTube has announced that it will be cracking down on viral challenge and prank videos that show "harmful or dangerous content" and warned content creators they have two months to clean up their channels.

The video platform, which is owned by Google, said it plans to continue to host viral trends like the water bottle flip challenge but will remove videos that violate its new rule.

The move to regulate prank and challenge videos was not in response to any particular trend and the policy has been in development for several months, according to a YouTube spokesperson.

The new rule does, however, come after the internet's collective interest in Netflix original movie "Bird Box," which inspired the Bird Box challenge, which had people blindfolding themselves while doing tasks as is shown in the science fiction-horror film.

After a two-month grace period, content creators will be reprimanded if they upload a video of a challenge or prank on their channel that the platform deems dangerous or that could be perceived as harmful.

"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," a community guidelines announcement reads.

The announcement explains that the platform will no longer allow "pranks that make victims believe they're in serious physical danger — for example, a home invasion prank or a drive-by shooting prank."

It also said it won't allow pranks that could "cause children to experience severe emotional distress, meaning something so bad that it could leave the child traumatized for life."

"YouTube has long prohibited videos which promote harmful or dangerous activities and we routinely review and update our enforcement guidelines to make sure they're consistent and appropriately address emerging trends," a YouTube spokesperson wrote in an email to NBC News.

Prank and challenge videos have been a significant part of YouTube's ecosystem since its inception. The company's announcement pointed to two past trends — the "fire challenge" and the "Tide pod challenge" — as examples of what is no longer acceptable on the platform.

Last year, videos were uploaded to YouTube of people eating Tide detergent pods as part of a viral challenge, which sparked major concerns from health officials and parents.


Proctor and Gamble, the company that owns Tide, released a video urging kids and teens not to eat Tide pods.

The fire challenge, which has been on the internet for several years, saw teens putting flammable liquids on themselves and lighting themselves on fire.

Pranks have also been a major part of YouTube's content and some of the most viral are within the parameters of what YouTube has described as potentially harmful. Viral YouTube pranks range from kidnapping pranks, pranks where the subject of the prank believes their friend has been murdered, and adults "pranking" their children in ways that some described as abusive.

YouTube said in its announcement that it worked with child psychologists to develop the new rules, and said that pranks showing "the fake death of a parent or severe abandonment or shaming for mistakes" will be punished.

The platform operates on a strike policy — a violation of the rules of the site results in a strike. Three strikes within a three-month period will result in the termination of a channel, according to YouTube, although content creators can appeal a strike.

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