The importance of context

Context is very important for all videos, but it’s particularly important when posting graphic content. Content that is educational, scientific, newsworthy, or a documentary may often contain graphic content. This type of content is allowed on YouTube if it includes context. Adding details explaining your video helps users find and understand your content. It also helps the YouTube team review your video if it gets flagged.

For example, a video posted by a citizen journalist capturing footage of protesters being beaten would likely be allowed if it includes relevant context. In this example, relevant information could be a list of tips at the beginning of the video on how to stay safe when at a protest. Or, a voice-over narration about the protest's history. The video should also have a clear title or description indicating that it is reporting on or documenting  the content.

Guidelines for adding context

YouTube is not a home for glorifying violence or promoting hate. Graphic or controversial footage may be allowed if it’s educational but it may also have age-restrictions or a warning screen.

Do's and don'ts

What you should do

  • Consider the intention of your video — is it to inform and educate or to shock and incite?
  • Provide voiceover or text narration to your video. You can do this while recording or add it later while editing.
  • Make sure the context can be seen or heard easily by someone watching the video. It’s important to add information to the description and title as well as in the video content itself.

What you shouldn't do

  • Make violence the focus of your video.
  • Emphasize violent content by zooming, looping, or using other editing techniques that take away from your message.
  • Try to shock or disgust your viewers.
  • Use your video to glorify or celebrate violent acts.
  • Rely on metadata alone to provide context. Metadata can be supportive but a viewer should be able to understand the context from watching and listening to the video alone.

Tips for adding context before and after uploading

How to add context before you upload

Adding context within your video helps us understand background and intent. With violence content or content related to terrorism, add an introduction, voiceover commentary, or text overlays to provide additional context. It is essential that you add informative or clarifying information within your video before uploading to help our teams understand the context, and don’t rely solely on the video title or description to make your intent clear.

You should also avoid zooming in or sustained focus on the most graphic sections of the video, as we don’t allow gratuitous violence.

There are many third-party apps for both your computer and mobile device that allow you to edit your video: adding text overlays, title screens, and audio tracks. Once edited, you can then save it or export it directly to YouTube.

How to add context after you upload

If you were unable to add sufficient context to your initial video upload, you can also add additional context after uploading. This additional context is important but if your video contains highly sensitive content, you will still need to provide context in the video itself.

  • Provide an informative and relevant title. You can pack in a lot of information here, even if you’re on the move on a mobile device.
  • Avoid using descriptions, titles, tags and thumbnails that highlight the most provocative or shocking aspects of your video.
  • Use YouTube tools to include descriptive information in your video, i.e. who, what, when, where and why did it occur?
  • Use cards to link to relevant websites, such as a related news story or artist statement.
  • If your footage is sensitive and requires visual anonymity, check out YouTube’s blurring tool.
  • Check out organizations like Witness that provide resources for video activists, trainers, and their allies at no charge.
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