There are few YouTube genres more popular than the prank. Who doesn’t love pranks? People are crying, and then they’re mad, and then they’re laughing — that’s entertainment. The YouTube prank has become so ubiquitous that it is now a catch-all excuse to characterize one’s own terrible behavior as a prank (or social experiment).
But things have started to shift. Yesterday, YouTube updated its policies to prohibit dangerous “pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury.” The most recent example of this is the Bird Box Challenge, in which participants try to do things blindfolded. Jake Paul, for instance, drove his car blindfolded (in his own driveway) and was tricked into walking into a pond. The video has been pulled from YouTube but is still live on Facebook. Last week, a driver in Utah T-boned another car while participating.
Like I said, the YouTube prank has a long and storied tradition. Around this time last year, YouTube was begging people not to take a bite out of Tide Pods. The popular channel DaddyOFive was shut down after his pranks were more accurately characterized as child neglect. The couple behind the channel was sentenced to five years’ probation in 2017 before having that sentence reduced earlier this month. They are far from the only YouTube prankers to face legal consequences.
“We’ve updated our external guidelines to make it clear that we prohibit challenges presenting a risk of serious danger or death, and pranks that make victims believe they’re in serious physical danger, or cause children to experience severe emotional distress,” YouTube explained yesterday. In addition, the company said it has worked with child psychologists to develop guidelines around pranks harmful to minors. Examples given are “the fake death of a parent or severe abandonment or shaming for mistakes.”
Users who violate the policy will get a “strike” on their account, limiting what they can do. For the next two months, there is a grace period where videos in violation of the policy will be removed, but uploaders won’t receive a strike against them. Similarly, videos posted prior to this policy change will also be removed.