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YouTube increasing policy enforcement around dangerous pranks, custom thumbnails, external links

YouTube announced today that they will be more strictly enforcing their Community Guidelines around links to external websites, video thumbnail images and content that includes dangerous challenges and pranks.YouTube’s policies have not changed. What’s new is that now there are greater penalties for violating those policies.

If this affects your channel, YouTube is providing a two month grace period for people to clean up their content. Custom thumbnails, external links and prank videos that violate policy will be removed, but the channel won’t receive a strike.

If you find a video that violates the YouTube Community Guidelines, flag it to report it to YouTube.

Get all the details about this update in Community Guidelines enforcement in the official YouTube Help Forum.

Here’s an overview of the changes in policy enforcement:
Custom thumbnails: 
Custom thumbnails must comply with the YouTube Community Guidelines. Egregious violations, for example images of pornography or graphic violence, may result in a Community Guidelines strike, even if the video itself does not violate the Community Guidelines. For the first strike you will be able to replace the thumbnail, for the second strike it will be replaced with an auto-generated thumbnail.
External links: 
Any external website you link to must follow the YouTube Community Guidelines. Egregious violations, for example linking to pornography or malware, now may result in a Community Guidelines strike.
Dangerous challenges and pranks: 
YouTube “prohibits 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.” Examples of content that is not allowed: challenges that could cause death, pranks that make victims believe they’re in serious physical danger, the fake death of a child’s parent, severe simulated abandonment by a parent or guardian, or shaming a child for mistakes.

About Community Guidelines Strikes

Note: the Community Guidelines Strikes penalties were updated in February 2019.

When your channel gets a strike, you should receive an email and see a notice on your channel’s Status and Features page (
  • First Community Guidelines violation: Warning, and video removed, but no strike.
  • One strike: Seven day freeze on uploading content to YouTube, including live streaming.
  • Two strikes within 90 days: you won’t be able to post new content to YouTube for two weeks. 
  • Three strikes within 90 days: your account will be terminated.
If you believe your channel incorrectly received a Community Guidelines strike, you can appeal.