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YouTube pours cold water on ‘harmful or dangerous’ prank videos

In a change to its video policy, YouTube has vowed to clamp down on pranks that could result in serious harm to participants.

“It’s just a prank bro!” has become the internet’s ironic rejoinder to videos of abuse or other nastiness, intending to show up the hollow nature of that excuse for the victim who’s on the receiving end of violence or humiliation. Now it seems that YouTube has also got the message that a cheap laugh isn’t an excuse to put yourself or someone else in danger.

In its official statement, YouTube said that: “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.” So that’s reassuring to know.

The guidelines go further, also including pranks that make people fear for life or limb, even if they are in fact safe from harm: “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 traumatised for life.”

We’re very happy to see YouTube discourage this kind of antisocial behaviour on its platform, hopefully removing an incentive and cutting out copycats too. But there’s something in their statement that we’ve got to take issue with, and which cannot be allowed to go unnoticed; what bunch of lame-os decided to pick the water bottle flip and an old Jimmy Kimmel video as the two examples of “beloved challenges and pranks” in the official statement?  It almost feels like they’ve pulled a prank on us with those choices. I am unharmed, but thoroughly disappointed.



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