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YouTube Policy Update: stronger rules against harassment and cyberbullying

YouTube has updated their policy against harassment, threats and personal attacks, with broader definitions and stronger enforcement.

YouTube has never allowed harassment, doxxing or bullying, and its hate speech policy was expanded earlier this year to include supremacist content. With this update, YouTube will no longer allow content with "veiled or implied threats" or content that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes such as their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation."

YouTube says they have consulted with a number of creators, experts and free speech advocates "from all sides of the political spectrum" to develop this policy.
There are also new stronger penalties. Channels that "repeatedly brush up against" the new policy will be removed from the YouTube Partner Program. Violating videos may be removed, resulting in a Community Guidelines strike or even channel termination.

And - importantly - YouTube has explicitly stated this policy applies to everyone. 

There are exceptions to the policy for debates on high profile leaders, scripted content, harassment education, and content used for documentary, scientific or artistic purposes.

But a claim that something was "just a joke" shouldn't be sufficient to get out of any penalties. And YouTube has made clear "content that harms the YouTube ecosystem by persistently inciting hostility between creators for personal financial gain" is prohibited.

I expect the changes will cause some consternation. Channels that have built their audience on name calling and malicious insults will likely be affected. And some may decry this as unfairly preventing "free speech". It also remains to be seen how well it will be enforced.

Content not allowed under YouTube's harassment and cyberbullying policy

Be sure to check YouTube's help center article about harassment and cyberbullying for specific examples of what is and is not allowed.

Content that is not allowed:
  • Prolonged name calling or malicious insults based on "intrinsic attributes". This includes physical attributes, protected group status (including age, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, caste, disability or veteran status), or status as a survivor of assault, abuse or violence. 
  • Content uploaded with the intent to shame, deceive or insult a minor (usually under 18). That includes parents who upload videos bullying their kids (which has sadly been a thing).
  • Revealing someone's private information ("doxxing")
  • Inciting others to harass or threaten individuals, including encouraging abusive fan behavior on or off-YouTube.
  • Implicit or explicit threats of physical harm or destruction of property against "identifiable individuals". Implicit threats can include brandishing weapons or simulated violence. 
  • Non-consensual sex acts, unwanted sexualization, or content that graphically sexualizes or degrades an individual. This includes content that shows how to distribute non-consensual sexual imagery.

Exceptions to disallowed content

Some content that might otherwise fall under the harassment policy may be allowed if the content is used for documentary, scientific, or artistic purposes.  Some exceptions include:
  • Debates related to high-profile officials or leaders
  • Scripted performances (although YouTube notes "This is not a free pass to harass someone and claim “I was joking.”")
  • Harassment education or awareness 
  • Posting widely available public information, such as a business phone number or a public official's office phone number.

Policy Enforcement: Monetization, Content Removal and Community Guidelines Strikes

YouTube notes that this policy applies to everyone, "from private individuals, to YouTube creators, to public officials".

Channels that "repeatedly brush up" against the harassment policy will be removed from the YouTube Partner Program, even if the content is not removed from their channel. 

  • The first time it happens you will get a warning with no penalty.
  • Subsequent removals will result in a Community Guidelines strike.
  • Three strikes (one one really egregious violation of policy) and your channel will be terminated. 
If you believe your content has received a Community Guidelines strike in error, you can submit an appeal in YouTube Studio.

More information and resources

More 2019 YouTube Policy Updates

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. It would be excellent if the policy could just say that without having to go into detail. Although "nice" isn't quite the policy - you can criticize and say negative things, as long as they aren't malicious, harassing or threatening.

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