YouTube has a Community Guidelines that explain some of the practices that violate its policies and the rules that should be followed to help keep the platform safe and secure. Below is a list of content that is not allowed. Click on the corresponding links to learn more about some of the efforts YouTube has taken to try to combat harmful and abusive behavior:
In its harassment and cyberbullying policy, YouTube prohibits “content that targets an individual with prolonged or malicious insults based on intrinsic attributes, including their protected group status (age, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, etc) or physical traits”. Such content may include:
Users have the option to anonymously report content that they find inappropriate and if it violates any of the Community Guidelines, it will be removed. YouTube has its own systems of detection and has been using artificial intelligence to identify and flag harmful content. Ultimately, the platform relies on teams around the world to review flag videos and remove content. According to its Transparency Report, YouTube eliminated 6.111.008 videos and over 693.579.605 between January and March 2020. However, the platform has also faced public scrutiny for its delayed reaction to the spread of harmful and hateful content.
Read how other platforms are responding to online harassment here
Being targeted for harassment can be difficult and traumatizing. There are some things you can do to protect yourself. First of all, in any case, it is important to document and take screenshots of the episode of harassment. Any documentation of these events can be used to investigate the harassment and can be pivotal in any future criminal or civil litigation. Secondly, consider reporting the content or behavior to the platform as soon as possible (Learn more about how to do it in the next question) and consider taking other steps like deleting the offensive comments and blocking the harasser.
If you’re scared for your physical and mental safety, you could ask a trusted friend or family member to moderate the comments on the platform. If you regularly post, you could also encourage your audience to actively fight back against hate and post positive comments.
(Visit our Technical Safety guide to learn more about how to ensure your security)
Be aware that some incidents can escalate into more serious forms of harassment and cyberbullying so you might consider reporting them to your local law enforcement agency or to the police. You could also file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Many people, including immigrants, communities of color, and trans folks may not feel safer getting the authorities involved. We also want to flag that when you go to the police, they may or may not understand online harassment and may not validate your experience — which can deepen the trauma around your experience. Still, if you are concerned about your immediate safety, they may be the best option.
If you are under 18 and specific threats are made against you, tell a trusted adult. If you have been forced to share sex-related information, you can report it to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children using the CyberTipline or by phone at 1-800-843-5678.
Finally, keep in mind that you are not alone in the struggle, and there is a community at Right To Be ready to support you – visit Right To Be’s Storytelling Platform to share your story and request help. Also, these organizations have resources for individuals experiencing online harassment.
You have several options to report inappropriate content on YouTube:
Flag content: YouTube community members can anonymously flag content they find inappropriate. You have to be logged in to use this tool.
How to flag a video:
How to flag a comment:
As it is explained in the Community Guidelines, the “Report spam or abuse” link allowed the YouTube community to control the number of spam comments left on videos they upload or watch. If enough users mark a comment as spam, it becomes hidden under a “Marked as Spam” link. By clicking “Show link,” you can see the comment again.
The video’s uploader has the ability to “unmark” a comment as spam.
How to flag a channel:
You may report “users, inappropriate background images, or inappropriate profile avatars” through the reporting flow located on the bottom of every channel.
Reporting tool: You can file an abuse report using YouTube’s reporting tool. You will be asked for more detailed information than if you flag content or block a user. You can also report multiple videos, comments, or an entire user’s account if needed.
Privacy reporting: YouTube also offers the option of filing a Privacy Complaint Process if you consider there are videos or comments on the site that violate your privacy and personal information.
Legal reporting: You can also report abusive content through a Legal Webform offered by YouTube.
(It’s really important to take time out to take care of yourself. Visit our Self-Care guides and get some tips that will help you to feel better)
Any YouTube community member can report harassment on YouTube. Those who report can include:
Bystander involvement helps to curb the abusive content on YouTube and shows victims that they are supported by the community.
(Learn how to become a bystander on Right To Be’s Storytelling platform and support people who are experiencing harassment)
Although the definition of defamation varies around the world, in general, defamation is any untrue statement that is harmful to someone’s reputation or causes someone to be shunned or avoided.
For YouTube, to be able to process a defamation blocking request, the claim needs to be specific and strongly supported. For example, it needs to explain why you believe the statements are untrue and how it damages your reputation.
If you’ve attempted to contact the uploader, and you believe a defamation claim is more appropriate than a privacy or harassment complaint, please fill out the webform. YouTube also accepts free-form defamation complaints, submitted by email, fax, and mail.
No, YouTube only considers defamation reports that have been submitted by the party in question or their authorized legal representative. However, bystanders can report violations of YouTube’s Community and Privacy Guidelines via the reporting tool or by flagging inappropriate content.
When someone comments on your video, you’ll get a notification. You can click the arrow in the upper right of the comment to manage comments:
Remove: Takedown the comment and replies from YouTube.
Report spam or abuse: Report comments that you believe are spam or abuse to the YouTube team.
Hide from channel: Block the user from posting comments on videos on your channel (See next question). If you change your mind, you can remove the user from the hidden users list in your community settings.
You can also require that all new comments get approved before they are posted to your video or channel. To activate this feature for video comments:
To activate this feature for channel comments, go to your Channel Navigation settings and follow these instructions.
You can block someone by following these instructions:
When you block someone, they will no longer be able to make comments on your videos or channel or send you private messages.
(If you are experiencing harassment, learn more about your rights here)
Users are not notified when you block them, but they may realize it on their own when they are prevented from making comments on your videos or channel, or from sending you a private message.
YouTube recommends starting by contacting the uploader and asking them to remove the content. If you can’t reach an agreement with the uploader, or if you are uncomfortable contacting them, you can request removal of content based on YouTube’s Privacy Guidelines.
According to YouTube, “for content to be considered for removal, an individual must be uniquely identifiable by image, voice, full name, government identification number, bank account number or contact information (e.g., home address, email, etc) or other uniquely identifiable information”. YouTube also takes public interest, newsworthiness, and consent into account when determining if content should be removed for a privacy violation.
According to the platform, after a complaint is filed and accepted, “YouTube will give the uploader the opportunity to remove or edit the private information within their video. They will be given 48 hours to take action on the complaint. If the video is removed within 48 hours, the complaint filed will be closed. If the potential privacy violation remains after 48 hours, then the YouTube Team will review the complaint. Communications about the process will be sent to your registered email address. YouTube’s Privacy Complaint Process also accounts for cases that warrant urgent removal or contact or financial data”.
Restricted Mode is a setting available on the computer and mobile site that “helps screen out potentially objectionable content that you may prefer not to see or don’t want others to stumble across while enjoying YouTube”. While it’s not 100 percent accurate, YouTube uses community flagging, age-restrictions, and other signals to identify and filter out inappropriate content. To turn the restricted mode on or off:
Restricted Mode is enabled on a browser or device level, so you must enable it for each browser you use on your computer. Once enabled, Restricted Mode will remain on regardless of whether you are logged in or not, or if another person is logged into a different YouTube account. If you remain logged in to the YouTube account which locked Restricted Mode, other users will be able to adjust this setting. Learn more about how to enable or disable Restricted Mode on different devices.
The Safety Center is an excellent resource that provides tools, tips, and instructions for a variety of safety issues. It provides assistance for:
Some of the additional resources include:
YouTube Digital Citizenship Curriculum: This interactive and user-friendly curriculum is aimed and teachers and secondary school students. Participants can learn about privacy on YouTube, policy, and how to be a responsible cyber citizen in a few short lessons.
Google Family Safety Center: This safety center provides tips and advice for keeping your family safe online.
You can also explore Right To Be’s tools and our online harassment resources and learn how other social media platforms are responding to online harassment here.