True crime is simultaneously one of the most lucrative and controversial parts of the creator economy, with YouTubers and TikTokers sometimes forgetting that there are real people at the heart of the stories they tell. This is why YouTube’s latest actions against AI true crime content are so important.
And if you don’t know what AI true crime is, I regret to inform you that it’s exactly what it sounds like. It mainly depicts deepfakes of young children who have been the victim of a violent crime ‘telling their story’ in the first person.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Paul Bleakley, assistant professor in criminal justice at the University of New Haven, broke down exactly why these types of videos are harmful. “Something like this has real potential to revictimize people who have been victimized before,” he explained.
“Imagine being the parent or relative of one of these kids in these AI videos. You go online, and in this strange, high-pitched voice, here’s an AI image [based on] your deceased child, going into very gory detail about what happened to them,” Bleakley continued.
While TikTok banned deepfakes of minors early in 2023, YouTube’s updated Community Guidelines are a lot more specific in what they’re targeting. The new policy prohibits AI that “realistically simulates deceased minors or victims of deadly or well-documented major violent events describing their death or violence experienced.”
So, provided these guidelines are enforced, this should force that genre of AI true crime on YouTube to grind to a complete halt — although it remains to be seen whether other platforms like Meta, TikTok, and Twitter start adopting similarly specific policies.
But it will take a lot more than one policy to stop true crime culture. YouTubers and TikTokers have been monetizing videos recounting and detailing some of the most sinister crimes in history for years. You get makeup creators pairing some of the most horrific things you’ve ever heard of with the testing out their new beauty blender or mid-video pauses to quickly plug another sponsored item.
Hopefully, other platforms will be inspired to follow YouTube’s lead. While it will take a lot more for the exploitative true crime machine to break, this policy feels like a promising start.