Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

YouTube says ‘enough’ to risky challenges

Culture | The video platform finally bans clips that inspire harmful stunts
by Mary Jackson
Posted 1/18/19, 05:04 pm

YouTube is cracking down on popular “challenge” videos that perpetuate dangerous stunts after the latest nonsensical fad led to car crashes and injuries.

The video-sharing network owned by Google announced Tuesday it was updating its policies to prohibit challenges that present “an apparent risk of death” or feature children participating in activities posing “imminent risk of injury or bodily harm.” YouTube also said it will draw the line with content that “intends to incite violence or encourage dangerous or illegal activities.”

A handful of high-profile YouTubers who participated in the “Bird Box challenge” prompted the policy change. They filmed themselves performing everyday tasks while blindfolded, drawing inspiration from Bird Box, a wildly successful Netflix movie in which people must keep their eyes shut to survive the apocalypse.

Earlier this month, YouTube celebrity Jake Paul filmed himself driving blindfolded and separately walking on a busy Los Angeles street with his eyes covered. Others have filmed themselves using exercise machines or running into walls. Last week, a Utah teen crashed into another car while driving blindfolded. It got so bad that Netflix issued a “don’t try this at home” warning.

Dangerous YouTube-inspired challenges, such as one that involved ingesting Tide laundry detergent pods, have sickened and hospitalized participants. Last year, detergent maker Procter & Gamble urged parents to prohibit their children from taking part.

YouTube’s revised guidelines also prohibit pranks involving home invasions and drive-by shootings, along with the so-called “fire challenge,” a years-old stunt that entails dowsing oneself with flammable liquid and lighting it. The challenge has resulted in the hospitalizations of several children.

Prank videos ranging from silly to dangerous have long been among YouTube’s most popular and problematic content. In 2017, the YouTube channel DaddyOFive was removed after a couple’s pranks on their children resulted in loss of custody and a conviction for child neglect. YouTube’s new restrictions ban videos that will “cause children to experience severe emotional distress, meaning something so bad that it could leave the child traumatized for life.”

The company is giving its content creators two months to clean up their channels.

Many parents and parenting experts say the restrictions are long overdue. Melissa Henson, program director for the Los Angeles–based Parent Television Council, told me that while some challenges are harmless and even fun, like the “water bottle flip challenge,” children are particularly vulnerable to dangerous stunts: “We know that they are highly influenced by what they see their peers doing and what appears on social media.”

Henson encouraged parents to talk with their children about challenges and pranks that show up in the news and why many of them are so dangerous. When it comes to YouTube, she advised applying parental controls, checking children’s viewing history, and regularly talking about what they are watching.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve gotten to a place where common sense holds no sway,” Henson said. “But that makes these requirements and updates all the more necessary.”

Hat Tip Films/The Gosnell Movie Hat Tip Films/The Gosnell Movie Earl Billings as Kermit Gosnell in a scene from Gosnell: The Trial of America’s biggest serial killer

Small screen victory

After struggling for years to break into theaters, the movie Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is seeing smashing success with home viewers. The film, which tells the story of how Philadelphia authorities brought abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell to justice, comes out on DVD Feb. 5 but is already the No. 3 best-selling DVD on Amazon thanks to pre-ordering. (It’s No. 1 in the drama category.) As of Friday morning, it was beating movies such as Halloween, Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition, and The Greatest Showman in Amazon sales.

Producer Phelim McAleer said in a statement from the National Right to Life Committee that he was elated but not surprised at the movie’s success.

“People really want to learn about Gosnell,” McAleer said. “They want to hear the truth. This story has been covered up since the beginning, but thanks to the movie, the coverup is ending.”

The film also deals with the media’s reluctance to cover the case because it exposed the horrors of abortion.

On-demand viewers can watch Gosnell through Amazon Video and other streaming providers starting Monday. —Lynde Langdon

The next pro-life feature film

Attendees at Friday’s March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., got to see a sneak peek at another pro-life movie, currently in post-production. Roe v. Wade, starring Jon Voight as Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger, tells the story of the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion up until a baby could survive outside the womb.

Producer Nick Loeb shot the movie under a secret title and kept details about it quiet because of security concerns, according to The Hollywood Reporter. (Loeb is also locked in a court battle with his ex-fiancée, actress Sofia Vergara, over two frozen embryos they created that he wants to implant in a surrogate and she wants to keep on ice indefinitely.)

A release date has not been set for the movie, but a trailer came out earlier this week (see below). —L.L.

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Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and reporter for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Geenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area. Follow her on Twitter @mbjackson77.

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