YouTube bans dangerous pranks after Bird Box challenge
- Move prompted by spate of videos where participants try to perform tasks while blindfolded
YouTube has banned creators from depicting “dangerous challenges and pranks”, after a wave of incidents prompted by a viral challenge involving driving blindfolded pushed it to act.
The so-called Bird Box challenge, inspired by the Netflix film of the same name, saw YouTubers imitating scenes from the movie in which characters must perform common tasks while blindfolded. A culture of one-upmanship meant that rapidly progressed to online celebrities such as Jake Paul walking through traffic and driving their cars while unable to see, leading to a Utah teenager crash ing her car into oncoming traffic repeating the stunt.
YouTube has banned the depiction of such behaviour completely, citing similar memes such as the Tide Pod challenge (eating laundry detergent) and the fire challenge (setting yourself on fire).
Challenges “that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances have no place on YouTube”, the company said.
YouTube is also banning pranks that while physically harmless, may cause serious distress. “We don’t 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 said. “We also don’t allow pranks that cause children to experience severe emotional distress, meaning something so bad that it could leave the child traumatised for life.”
In July, YouTube banned one couple whose videos had been regularly criticised by viewers for depicting behaviour some felt was tantamount to child abuse. Michael and Heather Martin, who posted videos to the site under the name FamilyOFive, had previously posted videos that drew concern from their audience. In one, Michael instructed his children to slap his daughter in the face; in another, Michael sprayed disappearing ink on the floor of his son’s bedroom, before calling him in and scolding him for it. As the son broke down in tears, Martin revealed the joke, telling him it was “just a prank”.
Despite the concerns, however, the Martins were only banned from the site after they were convicted for child neglect and sentenced to five years’ probation. Even then, the ban only arrived nine months after the conviction.
Users who violate the rules will not be penalised too harshly, however. A violation will mean the video being removed, and a “strike” being handed to the account. Creators who receive a strike are limited in what they can do for 90 days, but then all privileges will be restored if they do not receive a second strike in that time.
YouTube also tightened rules on creators who violate its guidelines outside videos, announcing a policy under which it will apply strikes to users who “egregiously” violate rules in video thumbnails, or links to external content.
More wholesome pranks and challenges remain welcome on the site, YouTube said, citing examples “like Jimmy Kimmel’s terrible Christmas presents prank or the water bottle flip challenge ”. The viral spread of such challenges remains a big deal for YouTube: the original, and still the most famous, challenge to hit YouTube, the ice bucket challenge, racked up a total of 1bn views in just over a month back in 2014, as ever bigger celebrities jumped on board to support the charitable aims of the challenge, and soak up some reflected goodwill.