YouTube cracks down on harmful eating disorder content with new policies

The biggest video-sharing website in the world, YouTube, has introduced new guidelines to deal with the issue of eating disorder content on its platform. The company announced that it would revise its community guidelines to exclude material that exalts or encourages eating disorders, as well as material that showcases copycat behaviours that can endanger impressionable viewers.

Millions of people worldwide suffer from eating disorders, which are serious mental health illnesses. They can result in serious bodily, psychological, and occasionally even fatal harm. Nearly 28.8 million Americans will experience an eating disorder at some point in their life, according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).

In order to better understand imitable behaviour and how it could emerge in content and affect impressionable viewers, YouTube claimed to have worked closely with NEDA and other organisations. Showing or describing actions like caloric restriction, binge eating, purging, abusing laxatives, and fasting for weight loss are examples of imitable behaviour.

Such content will be prohibited under the new regulations unless it is of an educational, documentary, scientific, or aesthetic nature. Additionally, YouTube will place age limitations on films that discuss problematic eating behaviour and add resources for mental health under those videos.

Dr. Garth Graham, YouTube’s head of health, said in a statement that mental health problems like eating disorders can be stigmatising and isolating for people all around the world. We want to support producers so they can keep telling their stories on YouTube, which is a crucial venue for promoting understanding of eating disorders from all angles.

“We also recognise our obligation to safeguard our community from harmful content that could adversely affect their wellbeing,” he continued. To find a balance between allowing people to speak honestly about their experiences and banning anything that could encourage or precipitate imitable behaviour, we are amending our policy.

In the upcoming weeks, the new regulations will be implemented everywhere. In order to achieve a seamless transition and offer advice on how to comply with the stricter rules, YouTube said it will collaborate with artists and experts.

The decision by YouTube comes amid increased worries about how social media sites can affect young people’s mental health and body image. Increased social media use among adolescents was revealed to be a risk factor for disordered eating, according to a recent study by Harvard University researchers.

The study also discovered that youths’ lower self-esteem, more body dissatisfaction, and increased dieting were all related to exposure to pro-eating disorder information on social media.

The researchers recommended social media sites to take more proactive steps to stop the transmission of dangerous eating disorder information and promote uplifting messages about body diversity and acceptance.

Not just YouTube has made improvements to this issue-solving process. In 2019, Instagram made the announcement that it would stop allowing posts to sell weight loss products or cosmetic surgery and erase images of self-harm. Ads for fasting applications and weight loss products were outlawed on TikTok in 2020, and videos with potentially upsetting content related to eating disorders now have warning warnings.

These initiatives show an increasing understanding of the need to establish a safer and more encouraging online environment for those who deal with eating disorders or are at danger of doing so.

You can get additional information and assistance if you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder by calling the NEDA helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or by visiting their website at