YouTube updates channel strike system with a one-time warning and more consistent punishments

YouTube is overhauling its community guidelines with a new system for warning channels that break the rules. The new system is meant to be clearer and more consistent. It’s also the first time in nearly a decade that YouTube has updated the strike rules.

The biggest change is a new warning strike that YouTube will start issuing on February 25th. After a channel’s first rule violation, YouTube will issue a “one-time warning” with no penalty, except for removing the offending content. “This is to make sure everyone takes the time to learn about our Community Guidelines,” YouTube says.

After the one-time warning, YouTube’s existing three-strike system kicks in. As before, strikes come with escalating penalties, but they’ll reset if a channel doesn’t break the rules for 90 days. That warning strike is a one-time deal, and it won’t reset.

YouTube is also updating the penalties for receiving a strike. “Based on your feedback, all Community Guidelines strikes will have the same penalty,” the company says. Specifically:

  • A first strike will get a channel frozen for one week. Users won’t be able to upload or stream any new content to YouTube. Like before, that strike will expire after 90 days.
  • A second strike within that 90-day period will result in a two-week uploading freeze.
  • Lastly, the third strike in that 90-day period will cause YouTube to shut down the channel.

YouTube is treating all violations of its community guidelines the same, meaning that someone who gets a strike for, say, impersonating another channel would get the same penalty as someone who posts violent hate speech or threats.


YouTube says it’s sticking with the three-strike system because it works: according to the company, 98 percent of its users never violate the community guidelines at all, and “94 percent of those who do receive a first strike never get a second one.” The company is also adding mobile and on-site notifications for channel owners to help give creators a better idea of when or why they were banned.

It’s worth noting that the new system only applies to YouTube’s community guidelines, which remains a separate system from the company’s copyright strike system. Copyright strikes will continue to be issued when YouTube receives legal requests from rights holders, will not offer a warning strike, and follow the company’s separate penalty system detailed on the copyright strike page. Copyright strikes and community guideline strikes also don’t overlap, so a user with one community guidelines strike and two copyright strikes won’t see their channel closed.

Whether or not the new system is enough to help mitigate the existing problems with the three-strike system remains to be seen. But at least it seems like YouTube is actively trying to make the process of what does and doesn’t get banned a little more consistent and transparent, and that can only be a good thing.

Update February 19, 10:40 am: Clarified differences between YouTube’s community guideline strike program, which was updated today, and the company’s legal copyright strike system, which is a separate program with its own rules and punishments that remains unchanged.