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The Verge reports that the social media platform said it won’t run ads on any video dealing with the Momo challenge, which features a creepy Japanese sculpture that is reportedly spliced into innocent-looking children’s videos that then tells young users to hurt or kill themselves.
Earlier this week, YouTube told the Daily Dot that it had not found or been alerted to any Momo challenge content that violated its content policies. YouTube videos that raised awareness about the challenge or discussed the fallout were allowed to remain on the platform, according to the site.
But YouTube told the Verge that any content about the Momo challenge is a violation of the advertiser-friendly content guidelines, which includes statements about “controversial issues and sensitive events” and “harmful or dangerous acts.”
The advertiser-friendly content guidelines are different from the community content guidelines. So, the videos are allowed to stay on the site. They just won’t make the YouTuber any money (and some of them have pre-video warnings that caution viewers about inappropriate or disturbing content).
“YouTube uses technology and policy enforcement processes to determine if a video is suitable for advertising,” YouTube writes on its advertiser-friendly content guidelines page. “We continually work hard to make our algorithms as accurate as possible and to understand nuances, including for categories like music, gaming, and news. Our intention is to treat each video based on context, including content that is clearly comedic, educational, or satirical in nature.”
The Momo challenge reportedly began on WhatsApp in 2018 and reportedly moved to YouTube and the YouTube Kids app recently. It prompted schools and police around the world to issue statements for parents to be on the lookout after numerous people told news outlets that the Momo character was trying to convince their children to commit self-harm or other dangerous acts. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Torey Lanez have publicly been wringing their hands about the challenge, and a variety of memes have recently littered the internet.
Even the biggest YouTube stars, like Philip DeFranco (6.3 million subscribers), have seen their content about Momo be demonetized (the yellow dollar sign on his photo below means there are no ads running on that video).
Meanwhile, YouTube said it’s doing its best to protect the children who watch videos or who peruse the Kids app. The site announced Thursday that videos involving minors will automatically have their comments disabled after it was recently revealed by a YouTuber that a “softcore pedophile ring” was operating through a “wormhole,” a report that sent major advertisers fleeing away from the site.
YouTube said in a tweet on Wednesday, “If you see videos including harmful or dangerous challenges on YouTube, we encourage you to flag them to us immediately. These challenges are clearly against our Community Guidelines.”
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.