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YouTube’s link spam situation is so bad that Shorts is banning links

YouTube’s link spam situation is so bad that Shorts is banning links


Links in Shorts descriptions, comments, and vertical live feeds will no longer be clickable starting August 31st.

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YouTube logo image in red over a geometric red, black, and cream background
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

YouTube is taking preventative measures to tackle the increase in scams and spam appearing across its TikTok rival, YouTube Shorts. Starting August 31st, YouTube will gradually make links across Shorts comments, descriptions, and the vertical live feeds unclickable to prevent users from potentially being exposed to malware, phishing scams, and other harmful scam-related content.

YouTube says that it’s planning to introduce a new, safer way for creators to link their Shorts viewers to other YouTube content “by the end of September.”

Two screenshots from a mobile phone that show a users YouTube Shorts account and regular YouTube account connected by a purple arrow.
A new, safer way for creators to direct their Shorts viewers to other YouTube content will be introduced by the end of September.
Image: YouTube

The video streaming giant will also remove the clickable social media icons from channel banners on desktop, claiming them to be a “source of misleading links.” The obvious downside to these changes is that these links are super important to creators — they enable them to diversify their content by guiding viewers to their accounts on other platforms and build revenue by linking to ads and affiliate content.

YouTube plans to give creators a new space on channel profiles to place prominent, clickable links to websites, social profiles, merch sites, and other links that comply with the platform’s Community Guidelines. This update will start rolling out across both mobile and desktop starting August 23rd and can be found near the “subscribe” button. You can see a preview of what this should look like for mobile users in the GIF below.

A gif displaying where a dedicated space for links will be located on YouTube channels starting August 23rd.
This is where mobile users should see the new dedicated channel links after they start rolling out on August 23rd.
Image: YouTube

“We don’t have any plans to make any other links unclickable,” YouTube said in a press release. “We know that links are an important way for creators to share information and recommend products/brands to their communities, so we’re actively working on safer ways for creators to include important links in their content.”

YouTube claims that some of the policies and systems it’s already implemented to combat scammers and spammers are having a positive effect. The number of channels that were removed or otherwise terminated due to impersonating other users increased by 35 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year. Comments held by YouTube’s “increase strictness” feature — which detects any potentially spammy and / or inappropriate comments and gives creators the option to review them — also increased by 200 percent in the first week of June following updates to the feature, compared to the first week of May (before the improvements were released).

Plenty of high-profile creators have criticized YouTube’s spam problem over the last few years. The company introduced new policies designed to address the issue in June last year, just weeks after big names like Marques Brownlee, Linus Tech Tips, and Jacksepticeye published videos that highlighted how prolific spam was becoming in their channel comments. The updates at that time included removing the ability for creators to hide their subscriber count and expanding access to a stricter moderation system YouTube started testing in December 2021. 

It’s good that the company is still taking the issue seriously. Its decision to pull the plug on clickable links before introducing a safe, viable alternative isn’t likely to get a warm response from the smaller creators that can’t rely on YouTube’s direct revenue streams, though.