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YouTube is relaxing some rules about ads on drug-related videos

YouTube is relaxing some rules about ads on drug-related videos


It’s ‘expanding monetization’ on drug-related content

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

From this month, Google is updating some of its YouTube ad guidelines about drug-related videos. In a support document spotted by Gizmodo, Google says it’s “expanding monetization on educational, documentary or news content that may include violent interactions with law enforcement, recreational drugs and drug-related content, or sensitive events.” The update means more drug-related videos should be eligible to have ads placed next to them.

You can see the exact changes by comparing a backup of YouTube’s old content guidelines from last month with the guidelines that are live now. The guidelines break down drug-related content into three categories: videos where uploaders can turn ads on, videos where ads should be turned off, and videos where they can be turned on “but only brands who opt in will run ads.”

As New York becomes the sixteenth state to legalize use of marijuana

The biggest change is a new bullet point that’s appeared in the first section, covering videos where ads can be turned on. This now covers videos focusing “on the purchase, fabrication, or distribution of drugs, such as the fabrication of home-made opioids” and “news reports about cannabis farms” that do not glorify drug use. Previously, advertisers had to opt-in to run ads against this kind of content, restricting the amount of ad revenue they could make.

There are also a couple of bullet points that have disappeared entirely from YouTube’s list of videos where ads have to be turned off altogether. These are videos “focusing on drug consumption (including its effects) without educational or documentary context,” or which contain “promotion of regulated legal drugs or substances that can induce a high (e.g. cannabis and derivatives THC and CBD).”

Although these exact descriptions haven’t been added to any of the other sections, YouTube has slightly amended the wording in its section describing opt-in advertiser content, which now covers “content focusing on the display or effects of drug consumption; or the creation or distribution of drugs or drug paraphernalia in a comedic, non-educational, or non-documentary context.” The exact status of content around legal highs is less clear, however.

The individual changes are minor, but they should make it easier for YouTube creators to approach the topic of drugs in their videos without worrying about ad revenue. They reflect a broader acceptance of drugs in the United States that include New York recently becoming the sixteenth state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.