Should YouTube Be Responsible For “Tide Pod Challenge” Videos?

2018 started with what seems like the silliest viral “challenge” to ever hit the internet: A bunch of young kids¬†dare each other to chew on one of those Tide laundry pods, perhaps because they are colorful and it’s something dumb, and teenage nature dictates that this is something fun. Videos of people taking this challenge, in which they filmed themselves trying to eat these pods, appeared on YouTube, eventually going viral and prompting the staff of the company to lay down the ax on these kinds of videos. Did YouTube do the right thing? And should the platform be held responsible for such content appearing on its site?

YouTube’s Policy


We have to take a moment to look at what YouTube’s policy is on content like this. The guidelines are clear:

  • You cannot post videos that encourage others to do dangerous things, like making bombs, choking games or anything that might hurt an individual, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
  • If you wish to do something dangerous in a video or display something dangerous, YouTube will allow it to exist on its site as long as it is done for an educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic (EDSA) purpose.

Most “Tide pod challenge” videos posted on the site (perhaps even all of them, but no one has time to browse through¬†all of them) did not meet these guidelines. Yes, many of them didn’t necessarily encourage people to eat a Tide pod, but it was, after all, labeled a “challenge” (much like the “cinnamon challenge” that was so popular in 2012).

And by no means could one say that the challenge videos met EDSA guidelines the way that YouTube would define them.

Further reading of the guidelines by YouTube gives us this:

We are very sensitive to any harmful or dangerous content that involves minors.

Most of the participants are either minors or very young adults. Even if the videos may have been self-recorded, they are, after all, videos of people trying to eat a laundry pod that contains high amounts of ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, potassium hydroxide, and other chemicals that are extraordinarily dangerous to human health. It just wasn’t going to fly by their guidelines.

Should YouTube Be Held Responsible For These Videos?


YouTube is a platform that hosts videos uploaded by what they call “content creators”. These creators are private individuals and organizations who have no affiliation with the company that hosts their videos.

Because of this, it’s difficult to say that YouTube should be held responsible for dangerous videos uploaded to their site. While it may be laudable that they took the initiative to start a campaign that would take all of these Tide pod challenge videos down, if they were left up, this should say more about our attention-grabbing culture than it does about YouTube itself.

One example of this would be the “cinnamon challenge”, which first appeared around 2007, but became wildly popular around 2012. Young men and women were putting spoonfuls of cinnamon in their mouths to see if they could swallow them without coughing. Anyone who has ever cooked with cinnamon knows how challenging this is!

Back then, YouTube did not take the videos down. In the first three months of the year when the challenge exploded in popularity, poison control centers in the U.S. have received hundreds of phone calls related to people attempting to ingest large amounts of cinnamon. This all culminated in the death of a four-year-old boy in 2015 who tried to complete the challenge.

When we look back at this, we may be more inclined to comment about the combination of a proliferation of social media and the attention-seeking component of human nature than we would about YouTube.

What about you? To what extent do you believe that YouTube has responsibility for the content that it allows on its site?

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.



    “You cannot post videos that encourage others to do dangerous things”
    Define DANGEROUS. Downhill skiing, snowboarding, motorcycle riding, etc, etc, etc are all dangerous, even life threatening. to those who do not know how to do those activities. But we have thousands of YouTube videos depicting those activities. How many videos of people juggling running chainsaws are there on YouTube?

    The Ice Bucket Challenge was started for a very worthy cause. It seems benign, if a little uncomfortable. To somebody with a heart condition, it could be deadly. The shock of the cold temperature can cause a heart attack. And yet most Ice Bucket Challenges are proudly recorded and the videos posted on YouTube.

    YouTube cannot be expected to be the conscience and the policeman of society. If YouTube were to disallow the posting of any video that depicts an activity that potentially could be dangerous to somebody, they would have very few videos to show. The fast popularization of stupid human tricks is one of the unintended consequences of the Internet and social networks.

    I am surprised that YouTube and its like have not been sued out of existence by personal injury lawyers claiming that YouTube, et al, brain washed their clients into performing stupid, dangerous and/or life-threatening activities. Over the past couple of decades our society has become very litigious while at the same time people have become less and less willing to be responsible for their actions. It’s always “it’s not MY fault, so and so made me do it!”

    1. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. While I would agree that anyone with any common sense would think very carefully before joining in with these activities, I also recall that adolescents have a common sense bypass system that infects them for some years. It is these that need some guidance/censorship/education.

      1. YouTube should definitely vet what is about to be posted but those posting such videos (and their parents, in case of minors) should be held criminally liable if and when an injury occurs.

    2. Amen, amen and again I say AMEN! Well stated dragonmouth… If you are an “adult” than you are (or should be) accountable / responsible for YOUR actions. Additionally, if you are a parent / guardian than you also need to take responsibility for the actions of your child / ward… you know… actually pay attention to where they are / what are doing / who they are hanging out with, etc…. if you are an irresponsible parent / guardian, e.g. give an adolescent an internet capable device and take no interest / precautions than YOU are the one responsible… not YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo, etc.

  2. This is the problem.

    The fact that this question even needs to be ASKED is what’s wrong with the world today. It would seem we are approaching the “Wall-E” Event. Where we have grown so bored, so tired of our very existence,….that we want technology to constantly entertain us and make us feel good about ourselves. I think if anything? it should go the OTHER way and YOUTUBE should sue the PANTS off these people (or their parents!) claiming that the videos are “tarnishing” their reputation, and that these videos injure or interfere with their profit margin. Yeah, I know,….it sounds ridiculous, right? But how much you wanna bet when “Mom & Dad” have to take a day off from work to go to COURT and pay fines and fees all because of some stupid sh*t their teenage son/daughter did just to garner votes and likes online……that videos such as this will cease? I bet you after the first 100 or so such cases?….parents will FINALLY start to PAY ATTENTION to what their children are DOING online! I find it amazing that videos such as this TIDE DETERGENT EATING (are you freakin’ KIDDING me!?) even got past the gatekeepers of YouTube. And yes, there might be other videos out there that might depict a person doing something “dangerous”, such as the things DragonMouth mentioned, but most of those videos?…ALSO show people doing what they can do to protect themselves from danger. Motorcycle riding? I’m almost CERTAIN they have HELMETS on while filming. Skiing?….Snowboarding?….you can bet they have on at the very least sun shades to give them a better view of where there goingand other protective clothing. But these Eating Detergent” videos?..exactly WHAT form of protection are hey providing?….a glass of water nearby? Nuh-uh, if you’ve EVER read ANYTHING regarding laundry products and accidental swallowing?…you’ll see it says DO NOT DRINK WATER..and DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING!!….so exactly how and what are they supposed to use for protection…these vids? should have been denied from the very first submission! YOU’RE SHOWING A PERSON TRYING TO EAT LAUNDRY DETERGENT! HOW THE HELL IS ANY OF THAT OK!?…..

    So no…..the idiocy and ignorance of everyday people does NOT fall under YouTube’s jurisdiction. And I think the masses are also to blame for the videos going “viral”. If people stopped paying attention to stupid sh*t online?….the posters would eventually give up trying to be “noticed”….jeezus!… seems society today?….is full of brain dead, mindless, zombies who will do whatever they see others doing just to get a thrill.

  3. No, YouTube shouldn’t be responsible for how their service is used, within reason. They can and do pull videos that are outside the TOS, community standards, and the law. That should be good enough, but the nanny state mentality that currently exists mandates more. If we held them accountable for all videos, they would need a large army of reviewers to view each video before allowing it online. That would be nearly impossible to pull off when we’re generating so much content per minute.

    Sadly, it’s a “Me, Too” world where idiots copy idiots and expect nothing bad to happen. Whether it’s the daredevils who trespass to climb construction cranes and skyscraper roofs, sky divers who zoom just feet above the sides of a mountain, the GoPro racers (mountain bike, motorcycle, or cars, take your pick) who risk life and limb to or those who follow these incredibly stupid and dangerous challenges, they’re all looking for a little fame to brag about. All of those activities have resulted in deaths from those who should know better.

  4. No. YouTube shouldn’t be held responsible for People’s stupidity…
    If someone is willing to believe anything they see on-line, without checking it, they brought it on themselves.

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