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The ethics of filtering out ‘harmful’ YouTube pranks and challenges

The "YouTube" logo is seen on a tablet screen on December 4, 2012 in Paris.
Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

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YouTube announced Tuesday that the company would be strengthening its community guideline enforcement--including a ban on “dangerous challenges and pranks.” And that could mean a Tide Pod challenge video won’t be as easy to find on the site.

According to YouTube’s statement on its website, the broad definition of “dangerous” and “challenging” has been defined as “challenges presenting a risk of serious danger or death.” Where to draw the line on social media content has always been full of tough ethical choices. This particular YouTube announcement comes on the heels of a car crash sustained by a Birdbox challenge participant in Utah. The challenge, modeled after the suspense film on Netflix involves the doing certain activities while blindfolded. The person who accepted the challenge was a teenager with her hat over her eyes, as the BBC reported. Larry speaks with two tech experts to dig into the considerations that YouTube is taking with its new guidelines.


S. Shyam Sundar, professor of media studies at Penn State and co-director of the university’s Media Effects Research Laboratory

Tarleton Gillespie, researcher at Microsoft Research in New England focusing on controversies surrounding digital media; associate professor of communications at Cornell University and author of the book, “Custodians of the Internet” (Yale University Press, 2018).