Youtube Places Ban on Dangerous Pranks After Birdbox Challenge

Pranking someone may seem like just a bit of harmless fun, but there’s most definitely a line that people have crossed in recent times, when a prank goes from amusing to seriously harmful and extremely dangerous.

YouTube has recently announced that any videos that depict harmful or emotionally distressing pranks have been banned from the platform.

The decision for the ban follows on from popular “challenges” uploaded to the tube site, some of which have resulted in serious injury or even death in some cases. For example, the “Bird Box Challenge” inspired by the Netflix film of the same name, where people attempt to undertake everyday tasks whilst blindfolded, including operating automobiles.

One particular YouTube prankster, known as Ben Phillips, raised a lot of concern when he uploaded a video where his friend is filmed putting on a blindfold and walking along a railway line.

YouTube stated that this kind of content has “no place on YouTube”. However, the platform doesn’t seem to be able to live up to their rules on other harmful content, such as terror group beheading videos and even ISIS propaganda.

Furthermore, Buzzfeed reported that content involving bestiality were still appearing on the site, despite a pledge to remove the material last April.

Some of these sickening videos had gained million of views. At the time, YouTube said it “worked to aggressively enforce our monetisation policies to eliminate the incentive for this abuse”.

Ben Phillips plays the ‘Birdbox Challenge’ near a railway line in the United Kingdom.   Credit: Manchester Evening News

However, with these new set of rules on pranks, it may be difficult to distinguish which pranks are actually harmful and not.

“YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks” YouTube added to its FAQ section.

“That said, we’ve always had policies to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful and dangerous.”

“Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are likely to result in serious harm, and today clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks.”

The platform stated that it would now not allow any videos that show “pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury”.

This includes pranks where someone is duped into thinking that they are in serious danger, even if there is no real threat present.

“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.”

Another example of this behaviour would be Michael Martin (known on YouTube as Daddyofive), a father from Maryland who’s channel focused on daily vlogging with his family and pranking his kids. However, these “prank” videos began to gradually get more extreme, with many videos featuring Martin encouraging his eldest child, Jake, to physically and mentally abuse his younger siblings, particularly towards Martin’s 9-year-old son Cody. Martin’s channel was eventually terminated last year for child abuse.

Michael Martin aka DaddyofFive has recently had his five year probation charge shortened, for mentally abusing his children on YouTube. Credit: Naibuzz

YouTube said it had worked closely with child psychologists on what might form a traumatic experience. While they didn’t provide a full list, this included scenarios where a child is tricked into believing their parents had died.

Pranks have always been a big part of YouTube since its inception, however, many pranks have proven to be harmful and some even deadly.

Back in March, a 20-year-old woman, Monalisa Perez, was sentenced to six months in prison for shooting her boyfriend dead in a prank that went wrong, after testing out a handgun.

Perez was filming a YouTube stunt with her boyfriend, 22-year-old Pedro Ruiz, where he asked her to fire a gun from 30cm away, with only a hardback encyclopedia to protect him from the bullet. Unsurprisingly, the bullet pierced the book and killed Ruiz.

Also, let’s not forget the craze that was the tide pod challenge last year, where teens would eat the detergent resulting in cases of toxic illnesses and hospital visits, including at least 8 deaths being reported.

So, will this be the end of these highly dangerous and quite frankly senseless pranks? We hope so, because how many more stories do we have to endure of people nearly killing themselves just for the “lolz”, before they finally start to realise that maybe it isn’t such a fun idea after all?


Story by Emily Clark

Featured Photo Credit: TheVerge

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