YouTube warns against dangerous pranks as risky memes rage

Videos showing people biting into laundry soap or driving blindfolded 'have no place on YouTube', the company says.

    YouTube said accounts that post videos violating policies on pranks will get a 'strike' [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]
    YouTube said accounts that post videos violating policies on pranks will get a 'strike' [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

    YouTube has clarified rules against posting videos of dangerous pranks, as risky "challenges" that prompt people to video themselves doing things like biting into laundry soap or driving blindfolded.

    The company already forbids content inciting dangerous activities likely to result in serious harm.

    But the clarifications "make it clear that challenges like the Tide Pod challenge or the Fire challenge, that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances, have no place on YouTube," the company said in a blog post on Tuesday.

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    "Our policies prohibiting harmful and dangerous content also extend to pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury," said YouTube, which like other social networks is trying to show that it is better tackling problematic content.

    It said the updated policies ban pranks that trick people into thinking they are in danger, such as fake home invasions or drive-by shootings.

    "YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, like Jimmy Kimmel's 'Terrible Christmas Presents' prank or the water bottle flip challenge," said YouTube, owned by Google's parent, Alphabet.

    "That said, we've always had policies to make sure what's funny doesn't cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous."

    Risky memes

    While playful or goofy challenges or pranks have become raging trends online, with video shared widely on YouTube or Facebook, some "memes" have put people in jeopardy.

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    A "Fire Challenge" dared people to put flammable liquid on their bodies then ignite it, while a "Tide Pod Challenge" involved people, typically teens, biting or chewing candy-coloured laundry detergent encapsulated in plastic pods.

    "Bird Box", a thriller released on Netflix a month ago, inspired people to do things blindfolded, mimicking characters in the original streaming film.

    A US teenager over the weekend crashed while driving with her eyes covered, taking part in a challenge inspired by the show, according to media reports.

    The updated YouTube policy also bans pranks that cause children trauma, for example, faking the death of a parent or severe abandonment, according to the firm.

    Accounts that post videos violating policies on pranks will get a "strike" that will limit some features such as live streaming.

    A second strike within three months will result in even more limited use of YouTube, while accounts getting three strikes in that time period will be terminated.

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    SOURCE: AFP news agency