HomeTechnologyNewsYouTube briefly banned a video that saves lives

YouTube briefly banned a video that saves lives

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If you’ve been in the woodworking scene on YouTube for a long time, you may have seen “brittle wood burning.” It is beautiful and exquisite. The only problem? It is incredibly deadly. And YouTube banned a video that warned of that danger before it put out the dangerous videos that described how to do it.

Fractal wood burning is the practice of using electricity to burn patterns into damp wood. Electricity passes through and creates “lightning”-like patterns, and no two instances of burning are the same. Dozens of YouTube videos (which we won’t link to) describe the process, how-to’s and even how to turn old microwaves into the transformer you’d need to provide the electricity.

The problem is that it is incredibly dangerous. You connect a transformer to the wall; electricity flows through that transformer and to two metal spikes embedded in the wood. Common DIY techniques involve holding the battery jumper cables that touch the pins (or even holding and moving the pins). But the transformer process that power increases the 120 volts you get from a wall outlet to 2000 volts, while decreasing the amps.

And therein lies the danger: if you touch metal spikes, wet wood, or even the surface of wood (if it’s conductive), you’ll get enough volts to instantly stop your heart. In recent years, more than 30 people have died in the process of attempting a fractal burn. This number is just the reported cases and is likely to be higher. Others were electrocuted and survived, but often with serious, life-changing injuries.

Ann Reardon of the how to cook that The YouTube channel discussed the dangers in a recent video detailing the reasons why you should never try it. You might think that in response, Google would look into the situation and remove videos that could easily contribute to the deaths of more people. Instead, he banned Reardon’s video, deleted all comments, and then emailed him about the situation.

Thankfully, since that happened, Google has reversed its decision, though all the deleted comments are still gone. As for the many videos detailing burning fractal wood and converting microwaves to make this happen? Those are still available to view as well.

This is not the first time that Reardon and others have posted about dangerous viral hacks. To this day, it’s easy to find dozens of videos suggesting you can poach an egg inside a microwave despite numerous reports of extreme injuries. Heating an egg in the microwave can cause it to explode, even after you take it out of the microwave. The superheated yoke can splash on your face or eyes and leave permanent scars or worse.

Deciding which videos to allow can be tricky. Woodworking videos often teach how to use a table saw, and using that equipment incorrectly (or even using it correctly!) can lead to injury or death. One of the key differences is that the dangers of a table saw are much more obvious, and tutorials usually point them out quickly along with precautions you should always take. These hazards can be minimized with proper procedures.

Fractal wood burning, however, has often been portrayed as safe despite being incredibly dangerous. The slightest slip can kill you instantly. Some people have died while handling equipment designed specifically for burning fractals. The margin of error is small and the risk is high.

Google often points to policies that ban videos that “have a serious risk of bodily harm or death” and, in fact, that’s the same policy it used to ban Reardon’s video. But despite those policies, dangerous viral hacks are incredibly easy to find on YouTube (and yes, TikTok and other video sites). It’s a shame their latest success was to temporarily ban the only video that actually saved lives, as evidenced by the many comments from viewers contemplating trying the technique.


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