Earlier this week, YouTube announced a number of changes to the way that the popular content platform handles material around eating disorders.
With that being said, it turns out that YouTube’s Community Guidelines now forbid videos that depict actions like purging after eating or severe calorie tracking that at-risk viewers could be tempted to follow.
The network has long banned content that praises or promotes eating disorders.
Videos depicting such “imitable behaviors” in the context of rehabilitation will be permitted to stay online by YouTube, but will only be accessible to individuals who are signed in and are older than 18 years old.
According to YouTube’s Global Head of Healthcare Garth Graham, the revisions to the policy, which were established in collaboration with the National Eating Disorder Association and other charity groups, are meant to “ensure that YouTube allows space for community healing and services, while continuing to safeguard our users.”
Graham explained that “We are thinking about the way to thread the needle in terms of essential conversations and information people might have, allowing them to hear stories about recovery and just allowing people to hear educational information but realizing that the display of that information as well … can also serve as a trigger.”
The modifications follow heightened scrutiny of social media networks’ influence on users’ mental health, particularly that of young people.
Lawmakers criticized Instagram and YouTube in 2021 for encouraging teenagers to follow profiles with content showing severe weight reduction and extreme diets.
Additionally, TikTok has come under fire from an internet safety organization that claimed the popular app exposed kids to material connected to eating disorders (although the platform has disputed the study’s findings).
They also adhere to many changes made by YouTube in recent years to the way it addresses false content concerning health-related topics like abortion and vaccinations.
In 9 countries and with ambitions to extend to even more, YouTube aims to add panels referring users to crisis services under content connected to eating disorders in addition to banning or age limiting select videos.
Additionally, Graham stated that YouTube would provide creators with advice on how to produce material that is less likely to hurt their viewers when a video is taken down for breaking its eating disorder policy.
However, like with many social media standards, the difficulty typically lies in enforcing the measures, which YouTube may find challenging to do when determining whether videos are, for instance, pro recovery.
In the upcoming weeks, YouTube said it would begin enforcing the policy internationally and has plans to utilize both human and automatic moderation to examine videos and their context.
Graham went on to note that “These are complicated, societal public health [problems] I want to never profess perfection, but to understand we have to be proactive, we have to be thoughtful … it has taken a while to get here since we wanted to articulate a process that had different layers and understood the challenges.”