The viral Bird Box challenge, in which people blindfold themselves in daily life in the style of characters from Netflix’s cult-status sci-fi flick Bird Box, will no longer have a home on YouTube. Videos that “cross the line” between funny and harmful are prohibited from the platform from now on, the video-streaming giant said this week.
“We’ve updated our external guidelines to 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,” a community manager from YouTube, which is owned by Google, wrote in a blog post.
“We’ve made it clear that our policies prohibiting harmful and dangerous content also extend to pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury. 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. We also don’t allow pranks that cause children to experience severe emotional distress, meaning something so bad that it could leave the child traumatized for life.”
Content policies (at YouTube and beyond, as many millennium-era tech and digital media companies mature) are not an aberration anymore — but their rollout has been shrouded by no small amount of controversy. Last May, YouTube removed 30 music videos in the drill music genre at the request of British police after they were deemed by authorities to play a role in a local increase in violent crime, but was chided by many in the music industry for suppressing creative work. And the ambiguity of language in YouTube’s new content policy against videos promoting “danger” or “severe emotional distress” means the service will be on the hook for deciding, in every new case, what constitutes a violation.
The Drake-inspired “In My Feelings” challenge last summer, for instance, saw a number of teens diving out of moving cars — but the site has been mum on those videos, while it called out the Tide pod challenge in this week’s blog post as an example of prohibited content.