"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

YouTube bans further content on eating disorders

April 18, 2023 – YouTube today announced that it'll review more content about eating disorders to scale back the potential for dangerous copycat behavior. The video-based social media platform may even introduce age-based viewing restrictions on some eating disorder content.

In a opinionYouTube Health director Garth Graham, MD, MPH, said the explanation for the changes was to “create space for community, recovery, and resources while protecting viewers.”

The changes were developed with input from the National Eating Disorder Association and other relevant groups.

Lawmakers and advocates have called on social media firms to do more to guard individuals who could also be sensitive to eating disorder content after epiphany that Meta executives knew as early as 2021 that the social media platform Instagram was affecting teenagers in worrying ways. The company's internal research found that Instagram led to poorer self-esteem in a single in three teenage girls and that the platform may lead a 13-year-old girl searching for food regimen tricks to educational content about eating disorders.

Up to 30 million people within the United States suffer from eating disorders that could be fatal. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 2.7% of individuals have an eating disorder by age 18. Eating disorders are considered mental illnesses and might include dangerous behaviors akin to restricting food, binge eating, and vomiting.

According to YouTube, billions of individuals world wide log into the platform every month and greater than 500 hours of content are uploaded every minute of the day.

YouTube already had policies in place to remove content that “glorifies” or promotes eating disorders. The latest policies include a further ban on content about eating disorders that demonstrates behavior worthy of imitation, akin to vomiting after eating, severe calorie restriction, or weight-based bullying “related to eating disorders.”

For some content about eating disorders that just isn't blocked, YouTube may impose age-based viewing restrictions or a “Crisis Resources Panel”, which allows users to receive live support from a YouTube partner. Age restrictions apply to viewers under 18 and can be triggered if someone just isn't logged into YouTube.

“We developed this approach to age-restricting eating disorder videos in consultation with outside experts to strike the right balance in our ongoing efforts to protect younger viewers from content they may be more likely to imitate than adults,” Graham said, adding that the changes will likely be implemented step by step.