For a social media video platform like YouTube to be a safe space for all kinds of creators, it must have certain rules of conduct in place. Not only that, but it must be able to define what types of content and behaviors aren’t acceptable, and then lay out punishments for those channels that cross the line.
YouTube does have such rules, and they’re called Community Guidelines. If you, like all legitimate YouTubers, want your content and your channel to stay on the platform, so you can build your brand and make money, then it’s never too soon for you to familiarize yourself with these guidelines and adhere to them completely!
What Are YouTube’s Community Guidelines?
YouTube’s Community Guidelines can be broken down into five separate categories: Span & Deceptive Practices, Sensitive Content, Violent or Dangerous Content, Regulated Goods, and Misinformation.
Let’s dig into each one, so that you know what you can and what you can’t make videos or posts about on YouTube.
1. Spam & Deceptive Practices
There are several types of content and actions that can fall under Spam & Deceptive Practices. Basically, this category covers anything that misleads or deceives viewers into watching your video or performing some other action that benefits you at their expense.
Here are some of the areas of YouTube where the Spam & Deceptive Practices guidelines are typically enforced.
- Fake Engagement: This refers to engagement (i.e., likes, comments, views, shares, and subscribers) that you purchase or acquire from automated systems, AKA bots. Since it comes from fake accounts, it can deceive your audience into thinking you’re more popular and trustworthy than you actually are.
- Impersonation: You should never copy someone else’s channel or channel name with the intent to impersonate them. That’s misleading to their audience as well as yours.
- External Links: YouTube creators are allowed to include external links in their videos, providing those links don’t lead to malicious or dangerous websites, viruses, pornography, sites that sell regulated goods which YouTube prohibits, and any other sites that may encourage users to violate other Community Guidelines.
- Spam, Deceptive Practices, and Scams: Attempting to spam, deceive, or scam your audience out of money and otherwise take advantage of them is a good way to get your channel terminated.
- Playlists: When creating playlists, make sure that none of the videos you include were previously removed from the platform or in any way violated YouTube’s Community Guidelines. Furthermore, ensure that the metadata for the playlist (i.e., title, thumbnail, description, and tags) are appropriate.
- Encouraging Terms of Service Violations: Never encourage other users to break YouTube’s rules.
- Previously Removed Content or Content from Terminated or Restricted Creators: If you are caught re-uploading content to YouTube that was previously removed, or that comes from a terminated or restricted creator’s channel, this is a violation of the Community Guidelines.
2. Sensitive Content
The second category we want to cover is one of the most important ones to learn about. Sensitive Content is content that can harm the people who watch it, and as such you want to avoid posting it at all costs.
Let’s talk about the areas where these guidelines apply.
- Child Safety: YouTube strictly prohibits any content that may cause harm or distress to minors (teenagers and children under the age of 18), emotionally or physically. This is especially enforced where pornographic materials are concerned.
- Thumbnails: The thumbnails on your videos should never depict any sensitive content such as pornography, nudity, sexually gratifying imagery, graphic blood and gore, or any other images that are intended to shock or disgust the viewer. Furthermore, your thumbnails shouldn’t deceive your viewers into thinking they’re clicking on one type of video when in reality the video is about something else entirely.
- Nudity and Sexual Content: Your YouTube videos should never show nudity and sexual content for the purpose of sexual gratification or pornography. In some limited cases, these topics are allowed; for example, if your content is educational, scientific, a documentary, or depicting art, YouTube may allow it.
- Suicide and Self-Harm: YouTube doesn’t allow content that promotes suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders; that is intended to shock and disturb the people watching it; or that poses a significant risk to the audience. However, you are allowed to make videos in which you share your personal experiences with these topics, or that are educational, scientific, artistic, or a documentary.
- Vulgar Language: You shouldn’t post videos or videos with metadata in which you employ sexually explicit language, excessive profanity, heavy profanity or sexually suggestive terms, or excessive sexual sounds.
3. Violent or Dangerous Content
Violent or Dangerous Content is another category that can bring or incite real, bodily harm against other human beings. Here are the things you should avoid posting about or sharing, so that you don’t violate this section of the guidelines.
- Harassment and Cyberbullying: It’s pretty simple not to violate this rule. Just don’t harass, insult, name-call, or threaten other users.
- Harmful or Dangerous Content: Any content that promotes a harmful, dangerous, or illegal activity will be subject to a takedown as soon as it’s discovered.
- Hate Speech: Hate speech is any kind of violent or hateful comment directed against someone based on attributes that they can’t change about themselves. This also applies to encouraging others to commit acts of violence against people with specific attributes. Those attributes include:
- Gender Identity and Expression
- Immigration Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Victims of a major violent event and their kin
- Veteran Status
- Violent Criminal Organizations: Never post content that aids, promotes, or praises violent criminal organizations or terrorist groups.
- Violent or Graphic Content: This category covers content that’s intended to shock or disgust people watching it, or that’s intended to encourage them to commit acts of violence against themselves, other people, or even animals.
4. Regulated Goods
While YouTubers are generally allowed to sell merchandise or services, there are certain regulated goods that YouTube does not permit the sale of. You shouldn’t even link to these items, either, or facilitate their purchase in any way. They include:
- Bank account passwords, stolen credit cards, or other financial information
- Counterfeit documents or currency
- Controlled narcotics and other drugs
- Endangered species or parts of endangered species
- Firearms and certain firearms accessories
- Nicotine, including vaping products
- Online gambling sites not yet reviewed by Google or YouTube
- Pharmaceuticals without a prescription
- Sex or escort services
- Unlicensed medical services
- Human smuggling
When it comes to firearms, in particular, we want to make a further note. Not only can you not sell or link to firearms, you also can’t post videos instructing viewers how to make them or install certain related accessories. You also can’t film a live stream in which you or someone else holds, handles, or transports a firearm.
The last category of YouTube’s Community Guidelines that we want to talk about is Misinformation. This is a broad category that’s often changing, so it’s best to recheck it once in a while.
In general, the Misinformation policy applies to any type of content that, by spreading “misinformation,” may cause “egregious harm” to viewers.
Here are some of the types of content that are prohibited on YouTube (with a few exceptions)”
- Suppression of Census Participation
- Manipulated Content
- Misattributed Content
- Promoting Dangerous Remedies, Cures, or Substances
- Contradicting Expert Consensus on Certain Safe Medical Practices
- Elections misinformation
- COVID-19 Medical Misinformation
- Vaccine Misinformation
One major exception to some of these topics, like COVID-19 and Vaccines, is if you’re using your platform to share your personal experience. As long as you’re not claiming that vaccines don’t work, for example, or claiming that COVID-19 isn’t real, you’re okay.
For more detailed information on what’s permissible when it comes to Misinformation, see that section of YouTube’s Community Guidelines.
What Happens If You Don’t Adhere to YouTube’s Community Guidelines?
For most YouTube creators, adhering to their Community Guidelines should be straightforward. But let’s say that for some reason, you accidentally violated one of their rules. What will happen next?
If this is your first or second strike, a few different things can happen. It all depends on which guideline you violate.
In other cases, though, your video could also get taken down completely. You could also lose your monetization privileges. It’s up to YouTube to decide which punishment is most appropriate to the situation.
If the violation was particularly severe – like, you threatened a minor, posted pornography, or scammed another user – YouTube may delete your entire account immediately. No questions asked.
Now, let’s say you’ve managed to get by with the offending video getting taken down. As long as you don’t accumulate two more Community Guidelines strikes within the next 90 days, your account won’t be terminated.
But if, in a 90-day period, you get three total strikes, then you can say goodbye to your YouTube account forever.
How To Not Violate YouTube’s Community Guidelines
You’d think that not violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines would be easy.
But sometimes, as with their Misinformation policies, it’s not always clear what type of content YouTube deems as acceptable to post.
Furthermore, YouTube isn’t always right. You can, for example, get hit with a copyright claim over something that falls under the legal doctrine of fair use, giving you grounds to dispute the claim. If you’re found to be innocent, then YouTube has to remove the copyright strike from your account.
So, you see, sometimes you may violate YouTube’s Community Guidelines without even knowing you’re doing it.
Still, it’s important not to get any strikes against your account if you can help it. To that end, here are some tips to follow to help you stay in YouTube’s good graces.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Community Guidelines Strikes Do You Need on YouTube to Get Your Account Deleted?
You need three Community Guidelines strikes in a 90-day period before YouTube will terminate your account.
What is the Difference Between a Strike and a Warning on YouTube?
A warning is like a mild reprimand and won’t lead to your account getting deleted. But a strike is more serious. If you get three of them within 90 days, your account may be terminated.
How Long Do Community Guidelines Strikes Stay on Your YouTube Account?
Community Guidelines strikes stay on your YouTube account for 90 days. Then they expire.
Knowing YouTube’s Community Guidelines enables you to protect yourself and your subscribers on the platform from harmful and misleading content. It also ensures that you can continue to create and post safe content that you can make honest money from. So, even though it may seem boring, review the Community Guidelines on YouTube carefully!