Keep out of reach of … teenagers? YouTube pulls Tide pod videos

What do hate speech, extremism, and laundry detergent have in common? They can all get you booted off YouTube, apparently. In a statement shared on Wednesday, January 17, YouTube said that it is removing flagged “Tide Pod Challenge” videos from the platform, because those videos show users attempting to eat laundry detergent packs. Tide’s parent company, Procter and Gamble, said it is working with multiple social media networks following a social media challenge that encourages youth to bite into toxic laundry packs.

Laundry packs have warning labels to keep the container out of reach of children. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (USCPSC) warnings on keeping the packs away from children (along with individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia) have been around since 2013. The detergent packs contain a higher concentration of chemicals than traditional detergent, with the capsule coating dissolving in both water and saliva. Ingesting the ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, and other chemicals in the packets can lead to gastrointestinal issues, respiratory arrest, and in severe cases, death.

While just how the Tide Pod challenge started is unclear, biting into the capsules for views is the latest in a series of “challenges” that involve risky behavior on camera, from burning hands with ice and salt to drinking a gallon of milk in an hour. YouTube isn’t adding a “Tide Pod” clause to its user agreement, however, since the Community Guidelines already prohibit any videos that “encourage dangerous activities,” the company said in a statement. But YouTube is removing flagged Tide Pod videos, though videos that discourage the activity remain.

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Along with removing the videos, YouTube also gives channels a strike for the guideline violations. YouTube creators with three strikes in three months will have their accounts terminated. Even with a single strike, YouTube limits features, including restricting access to live-streaming. After two, the account cannot post new content for two weeks.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers says over 10,000 children under five were exposed to detergent packs in 2017. For teenagers (13-19), the organization reported 39 incidents for this year as of January 15. That’s the same number for the entire year of 2016, reached in just fifteen days. In 91 percent of those cases, the exposure was through ingestion.

“The ‘laundry packet challenge’ is neither funny nor without serious health implications,” Stephen Kaminski, AAPCC’s CEO and executive director, said in a statement. “The intentional misuse of these products poses a real threat to the health of individuals. We have seen a large spike in single-load laundry packet exposures among teenagers since these videos have been uploaded.”

The USPCSC released an official statement — “Please don’t eat laundry pods.” Maybe try a challenge that raises money for charities, not calls to poison control centers.