YouTube cracks down on videos that could encourage eating disorders

The service will also provide help to people viewing related videos.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

YouTube already bans videos that directly promote eating disorders, but now it's clamping down on content that may unintentionally encourage that behavior. To begin with, the service banning videos on eating disorders that feature "imitable" behavior or weight-oriented bullying. The company will also restrict informative and artistic videos containing disorders (such as someone discussing their recovery) to users 18 and older.

You'll also see crisis resource panels for eating disorders in more places. While they already appear in search results in nine countries (including the US, Canada and UK), you'll now see them underneath relevant videos in those areas. Viewers in the US may be encouraged to call or chat with the National Eating Disorder Association in the US.

The new approach will initially be viewable today and reach more people in the weeks ahead. YouTube says this is an "ongoing" effort.

The addition is an acknowledgment that videos can affect people in "different ways," YouTube says. Ideally, this will minimize the chances of helpful video creators inadvertently fostering eating disorders in at-risk viewers.

Whether or not this works as intended is another matter. YouTube's enforcement hasn't always been consistent, and it has occasionally had to reverse policies (such as one limiting profanity in monetized videos) that inadvertently punished certain creators. Gaming and LGBTQ video producers, for instance, have complained that YouTube has demonetized clips that aren't harmful. With that said, the updated policy is focused on limiting access to videos, not removing their money-making potential.