YouTube is updating its guidelines for handling eating disorder content on its platform, the Google-owned company announced Tuesday. While the platform has long since removed content that glorifies or promotes eating disorders, YouTube now also bans content about eating disorders that users could be asked to imitate.
Such behaviors may include purging after eating or severely restricting calories. YouTube also prohibits content that could lead at-risk users to imitate certain behaviors, such as weight-based bullying in the context of eating disorders.
YouTube also announced that videos that focus on eating disorder recovery or contain sufficient educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic context (EDSA) may receive an age restriction and/or crisis resources panel.
Content containing EDSA or discussing disordered eating in the context of recovery may still not be appropriate for all ages, YouTube says. Therefore, it introduces age restrictions for certain eating disorder content. Due to the updated policy, some videos are not available to viewers under the age of 18, if you are logged out, or if the video is embedded on another website.
For example, YouTube can age-restrict videos where a creator talks about the disordered eating behavior they’ve engaged in while sharing their recovery journey.
“We developed this age-restriction approach to eating disorder-related videos in consultation with outside experts to strike the right balance in our ongoing efforts to protect younger viewers from content that they may find easier to imitate than adults,” the company wrote in a blog post. . “As with all of our Community Guidelines updates, these age restrictions will take some time to fully implement, so you may not see them right away.”
YouTube currently places panels of crisis resources at the top of search results related to eating disorders in the US, UK, India, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, France and Germany. Now, the company is expanding crisis resource panels to appear on watch pages in these countries as well. YouTube believes this change will enable it to reach an even wider audience with important context and mental health resources. The platform plans to launch these panels in even more countries in the future.
The policy updates, developed in consultation with the National Eating Disorder Association and other nonprofits, aim to ensure that YouTube “creates space for community, recovery, and resources while continuing to protect viewers.”
The updated policy comes as social media platforms are increasingly scrutinized for negatively impacting young users. In 2021, lawmakers surveyed executives from YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat about how their platforms handle eating disorder content. While the companies testified that they all have policies banning content that promotes eating disorders, senators cited evidence from voters about teens on these platforms still suffering from illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia.
At the hearing, YouTube executives pointed out how some users may find comfort in a video about how someone overcame an eating disorder, and that this content can be uplifting and help teens know they’re not alone in what they’re experiencing. The company is now addressing concerns that while this type of content is helpful, it can sometimes negatively impact users, hence the new age restrictions on certain eating disorder content when it comes to recovery.
The features announced today will be visible starting today and will be expanded over the coming weeks. YouTube says these efforts are ongoing and it will continue to work to ensure its platform is a safe place for users.