YouTube bans dangerous prank videos after ‘Bird Box challenge’ crashes

Jan 17, 2019 | Regulation, Video, Viral

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 Google owned platform has updated its guidelines after the Netflix film Bird Box saw people start pulling blindfolds over their eyes to perform tasks.

One teenager crashed her car in the US after pulling her hat over her eyes while driving.

YouTube said it can be a home for light-hearted pranks but reinforced that stunts which put people in danger were against its site policy.

In a new post to the FAQ section on its website, the company said: “YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, like Jimmy Kimmel’s Terrible Christmas Presents prank or the water bottle flip challenge.

“That said, we’ve always had policies to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous. Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are likely to result in serious harm, and today (we are) clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks.”

A follow up post stated: “Challenges that present an apparent risk of death are not allowed on YouTube. Content that features a child participating in dangerous challenges that pose an imminent risk of injury or bodily harm are also not allowed on YouTube.

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 crashing 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.”