YouTube is rolling out new policies for eating disorder content

New York (CNN) YouTube on Tuesday announced a series of changes to how it handles content related to eating disorders.

The platform has long removed content that glorifies or promotes eating disorders, and YouTube community guidelines will now also ban content that features behaviors such as purging after eating or extreme calorie counting. that risky users might be inspired to emulate. For videos that exhibit such “imitable behavior” as part of recovery, YouTube will allow the content to remain on the site but limit it to users logged in to the site and over 18 years of age.

The policy changes, developed in consultation with the National Eating Disorder Association and other nonprofits, are intended to ensure “that YouTube creates space for recovery and community resources, while continuing to protect our viewers. “, YouTube’s global head of healthcare, Garth Graham, told CNN. a meeting.

“We’re thinking about how to thread the needle in terms of conversations and critical information that people might have,” Graham said, “allowing people to hear stories about recovery and allowing people of hearing educational information, but also realizing that posting this information…can also act as a trigger.”

The changes come as social media platforms have come under increased scrutiny for their effects on the mental health of users, especially young people. In 2021, lawmakers called out Instagram and YouTube for promoting accounts featuring content depicting extreme weight loss and dieting for young users. And TikTok has come under fire from an online safety group who claimed the app served teens with content related to eating disorders (although the platform pushed back the search). ). They also track several updates from YouTube in recent years about how it handles misinformation about medical issues like abortion and vaccines.

In addition to removing or age-restricting some videos, YouTube plans to add panels pointing viewers to crisis resources under eating disorder-related content in nine countries, with plans to expand. to other areas. And when a creator’s video is taken down for violating its eating disorder policy, Graham said YouTube will send them resources on how to create content that is less likely to harm other viewers.

As with many social media policies, however, the challenge is often not to introduce it but to enforce it, a challenge YouTube might face in discerning which videos are, for example, recovery-friendly. YouTube said it will roll out the policy’s enforcement globally in the coming weeks and plans to use both human and automated moderation to review videos and their context.

“These are complicated, societal public health (problems),” Graham said, “I never want to profess perfection, but to understand that we have to be proactive, we have to be thoughtful…it took a while to get there there because we wanted to articulate a process that had different layers and understand the challenges.”

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