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

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Starting this month, Google is updating some of its YouTube advertising guidelines on drug-related videos. In a supporting document spotted by GizmodoGoogle says it “expands monetization of educational, documentary, or news content, including potentially 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 post ads next to them.

You can see the exact changes by comparing a backup from YouTube old content guidelines from last month with the guidelines that are now liveThe guidelines divide drug-related content into three categories: videos in which uploaders can enable ads, videos in which ads should be disabled, and videos in which they can be enabled “but only brands that sign up will show ads.”

The biggest change is a new bullet point that appeared in the first section, regarding videos that have ads enabled. This now includes videos focusing on “the purchase, manufacture or distribution of drugs, such as the manufacture of homemade opioids” and “news stories about cannabis cultivation companies” that do not glorify drug use. Previously, advertisers had to sign up to show ads with this type of content, which reduced their ad revenue.

There are also a few bullet points that have completely disappeared from the YouTube list of videos that require ads to be turned off altogether. These are videos “targeting drug use (including its effects) without an educational or documentary context”, or “promoting controlled legal drugs or high-inducing substances (eg, cannabis and derivatives THC and CBD).”

While these exact descriptions have not been added to any of the other sections, YouTube has slightly changed the wording in the section describing advertisers’ content, which now covers “content directed to the display or effects of drug use; or the creation or distribution of drugs or drug paraphernalia in a comic, non-educational or non-documentary context. However, the exact status of content around legal highs is less clear.

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 broader drug acceptance in the United States, including New York, which recently became the sixteenth state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.