Banned From YouTube: Common Slip-Ups

Banned From YouTube: Common Slip-Ups

There are lots of reasons why your video might get pulled from YouTube and not all of them are blindingly obvious. Here are some common violations that could see your clip pulled from the site by Google.

Rude picture from Shutterstock

Last week, I tested the waterproof LifeProof Nuud iPad case for Lifehacker by chucking it into a bath with my three- and five-year old daughters. The accompanying video, which contained contextually relevant mild nudity, was removed from YouTube within minutes of being uploaded.

“The YouTube Community has flagged one or more of your videos as inappropriate,” the stock email from Google explained. “Once a video is flagged, it is reviewed by the YouTube Team against our Community Guidelines. Upon review, we have determined that the following video(s) contain content in violation of these guidelines, and have been disabled.”

I have to admit this took me aback somewhat. While I understand there’s a lot of sensitivity around this issue, there’s clearly nothing insidious going on in the video — it’s just two kids having fun in a bathtub while testing the durability of an iPad case. To me, it would have been weirder to force them to wear swimsuits for their nightly bath.

Anyway, the incident got me thinking about the type of videos that get banned on YouTube and the reasoning behind these decisions.

Dems da rules

Google can choose to remove your videos — or even terminate your account — if you breach its community or copyright guidelines, which are broken down into their own separate strike systems.

While copyright violations are pretty obvious, the community guidelines are a bit greyer and is the reason our LifeProof video got flagged.

Some of the content that YouTube specifically highlights as unsuitable includes pornography and sexually explicit content, animal abuse, drug/substance abuse, instructional bomb making, graphic or gratuitous violence, “gross-out” videos of dead bodies, hate speech and spam.

In addition, there is zero tolerance for predatory behaviour, stalking, threats, harassment, invading privacy, or the revealing of other members’ personal information.

“Violations of the Terms of Use may result in a warning notification or termination of your account. If your account is terminated you are prohibited from creating any new accounts,” Google warns.

Here’s how YouTube’s community guideline strike system works, as explained on Google’s Youtube support page:

Community guidelines strikes

[clear] [clear] When we remove content for violating our Community Guidelines, the uploader will typically receive a Community Guidelines strike (which are distinct from Copyright strikes). [clear] [clear] Receiving strikes [clear] [clear] If you receive a Community Guidelines strike, you’ll receive a notification via email and in your Account Settings with information about why your content was removed (e.g. for sexual content or violence). If you feel that a video was removed without just cause, you can appeal the strike on your account. [clear] [clear] We understand that users make mistakes, and don’t intend to violate our policies. That’s why strikes don’t last forever — if you don’t receive another strike for six months, your initial strike will expire. If you receive a strike, make sure to review the reason your video or comment was removed to learn from your mistake. [clear] [clear] Here’s a bit more information about what happens with each strike you receive: [clear] [clear]

  • First Strike: The first strike on an account is considered a warning.
  • Second Strike: If your account receives two strikes within a six month period, you won’t be able to post new content to YouTube for two weeks. If there are no further issues, full privileges are restored automatically after the two week period.
  • Third Strike: If an account receives a third Community Guidelines strike before the first strike has expired, the account will be terminated.
  • [clear] [clear] Sometimes a video is removed for the safety of the person who posted the video, due to a first-party privacy complaint, court order, or other non-malicious issue. In these cases the uploader will not receive a strike and the account will not be penalized.

Naturally, you should also only upload videos that you made or that you are permitted to use:

“This means don’t upload videos you didn’t make, or use content in your videos that someone else owns the copyright to, such as music tracks, snippets of copyrighted programs, or videos made by other users, without necessary permissions.”

Here’s Google on how its YouTube copyright strike system works:

Copyright strike basics

[clear] [clear] YouTube removes content when we receive complete and valid removal requests. When content is removed, a strike is applied to the uploader’s account. If you receive three copyright strikes, your account will be suspended and all the videos uploaded to your account will be removed. Users with suspended accounts are prohibited from creating new accounts. [clear] [clear] Quick facts about copyright strikes

    [clear] [clear]
  • Receiving a copyright strike can limit your access to special YouTube features.
  • Copyright strikes are often confused with Content ID matches, which can result in a video being blocked. They are not the same.
  • You can view your strike information in the Copyright Notices section of your account.
  • Please note that deleting the video that received the strike will not resolve the strike.

While the above rules might seem pretty clear-cut, there’s plenty of wriggle room on either side which makes for some curious anomalies in Google’s decision making. For example, Robin Thicke’s saucy music video Blurred Lines was recently banned from YouTube for inappropriate content. Meanwhile, the barely distinguishable Tunnel Vision from Justin Timberlake was let off with just a warning. Clearly, the guidelines are extremely fluid and subjectivity appears to be a significant issue.

You could also find yourself inadvertently violating YouTube’s copyright rules without realising. Our colleague Alex Kidman once received a copyright strike for a video in which the product he was reviewing happened to be showing content from the Pay TV music channel MAX.

“YouTube’s auto-robots picked that it had a split second of some concert or another playing on MAX within it, and wanted a signed statement that I had clearances for that,” Kidman explained to us.

“Almost certainly fair use for the purpose of review, etc, but not worth arguing/having the channel pulled for it. The easy tip from my side there is to make sure there’s nothing on a screen that might have its own copyright if you’re also using ads. YouTube seems distinctly less fussed if you’re not.”

I have no idea which inappropriate content area our LifeProof clip was supposed to fall into — if it was flagged as pornography, I think that says more about the viewer than the video.


  • There is far worse on YouTube portrayed as art. Little kids splashing around in a bathtub, while borderline, is definitely not the worst.

    I did see the video and there was maybe 1 or 2 parts where I was like “that is a little too much”, but that’s just me.

    • Full on nudity seems to be allowed as long as it is not sexual and is medical instead. How to do a breast exam etc.

      I had a quick look one day as I work in a school and we were seeing how bad it could get. You would be surprised what you can find if you look.

  • “Community Guidelines” are so frustrating. I recently had one of my Instagram photos reported. No info on which one, and the guidelines are very ambiguous…

  • The sad thing is that someone out there would of got their jollies off your kids in a bath.

    • And some people get their jollies from fully clothed kids in jeans and T-shirts.

    • Sickeningly true… to where i am surprised a father would post something like this on the net. As a dad myself i would never consider filming and putting anything like that of my young daughter on the internet.

  • Yeah but there are weird people on the internet.
    what is probably ok for normal people, may be like porn for a paedophile.

  • Community Guidelines will always gravitate in favour of the edge cases, and rarely, if ever reflect the views of “the community” they are supposedly representing.

    At the end of the day YouTube / Google can do whatever they want really. It’s their company.

    I find it baffling however when I post a video of my original content and also use some music. It gets auto-flagged for “copyright violation” citing the music. The audio is removed from the video.

    Yet we all KNOW that YouTube is THE place to go to find music quickly. There are music videos with tens of millions of views that are NOT posted by the rights holder… that Google then sells advertising around… but little ole’ me who posts a video of something I did in my backyard. Sorry… you “stole” someone’s music. Frustrating.

    • Unfortunately. I believe its a bitter pill that you have to swallow? I always try to think to myself, what if everyone did it? Is that the kind of world I want to live in?
      Where advertising agencies for shady businesses start using your images for advertising material,would you like it if your wife showed up in a “bang local sluts ad?” How about your kids?
      Its a strange fu¢k€d up world out there on the internet please, the NSA can’t hear you if you aren’t speaking.

  • I didn’t see the video but I must admit that I do get slightly uncomfortable whenever there are (technically) naked babies in a nappy ad or whatever. I just… don’t see why you would want to put that kind of thing up to be honest. Sorry.

    • Potentially you’re desensitized to it because you’re a parent, but honestly I don’t want to see a naked kid on the tv or net or anywhere really.

      I know I sound like a prude, I’m completely the opposite in regards to most other things (sex, drugs etc) but that’s just how I feel. I can’t even really explain why but there you go.

  • I have no idea which inappropriate content area our LifeProof clip was supposed to fall into — if it was flagged as pornography, I think that says more about the viewer than the video.
    I can never reconcile the hysteria around images of naked children against the existence of rule 36. For any image of anything, there’s someone in the world who will find it sexual. So unless you ban images of everything everywhere on the Internet, you have to come up with some sort of dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable.

    Do we deal with this issue like adults? No, because of a few genuinely scary and dangerously sick individuals, we create an entire culture around making children embarrassed by their own bodies, and vigorously shame any parent who doesn’t accept that every image of their child is potentially sexual in some way. Which means that we’re all basically forcing each other to see images of children – even our own – the way pedos do. Surely no one can look at that solution and consider it a good outcome?

    I hope there was a sensible reason for the ban, Chris.

  • The fact people get in trouble for filming their own kids in a school play should have probably keyed you into the idea that showing naked kids in a bath might get you in the shit..

  • I have to admit this took me aback somewhat. While I understand there’s a lot of sensitivity around this issue, there’s clearly nothing insidious going on in the video — it’s just two kids having fun in a bathtub while testing the durability of an iPad case. To me, it would have been weirder to force them to wear swimsuits for their nightly bath.

    The salient point here I guess is why you felt the need to test the iPad case with your kids in the bath in the first place. You would have got the same results had you tossed it in the bath without the kids in it, or tossed it in a pool that had your kids in it.

    • The whole point of the article was whether the iPad case is tough enough to survive a kids’ bath; removing the kids would render the video pointless. I don’t own a pool and it’s winter.

      • I dunno man. I have a 3 year old daughter and I would not, under any circumstances, even entertain the idea of video taping her in the bath and putting it on youtube. Even though she’s too young to understand it that would just seem to me like a massive break in her trust in me.

        We clearly come from different circles I guess.

        • Totally agree^ – I wouldn’t even consider it with my young daughter.
          It’s to easy for the perverted types to take advantage of this kind of material.

          But then a friends family were raised where nudity in the home is fine (they weren’t nudists/naturalists) – though made it totally awkward going around with his little brother & sister running around like that.
          But it just proves the different circles, as you say.

  • If your finding YouTubes content policy a bit restrictive use the second biggest video site They don’t seem half as bothered about whats on there, or at least aren’t as good as policing it.

    I’m not linked, just been looking for alternatives since the big boys sold us all out to Prism 🙂

    • It’ll probably only be a matter of time before dailymotion heads down the youtube path though, or else they may be forced to shut down.

  • I believe its French so they might have completely different values on whats acceptable, or might even be enlightened enough to know its different in every country. 🙂

  • Lucky you didn’t get arrested unlike this married couple in the US who had a movie of their kids playing on the beach. They got into trouble for child porn and it took months to resolve.
    I don’t think it was uploaded, someone dobbed them in.

  • Some of the biggest YouTubers are shit scared about nudity of any kind…, so what the hell were you think ?

  • I put the blame on Pedobear!

    It’s ridiculous these days where you can’t put a vid up of your own kids playing in the bath because they are in the nude. I watched the vid as well and didn’t see anything bad about it it was all waist up, i’ve seen worse on youtube and also on funniest home video’s

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