We need to have a conversation about content

YouTuber Logan Paul’s controversial video sparks discussion about boundaries, consumer habits

If you’ve been anywhere with Internet since the beginning of 2018, you probably heard about the backlash against YouTuber Logan Paul for his video posted on Dec. 31, 2017. The video explicitly showed the hanging corpse of a suicide victim in the Aokigahara forest, infamously known as “the suicide forest,” which Paul filmed during his recent trip to Japan.

The criticism has been focused on Paul’s questionable decision to film, edit and post a video of a corpse, especially since his audience is largely under 12 years old, according to the American video game website Polygon. Many people have been condemning Paul for the video, from big-name YouTubers like Philip DeFranco, PewDiePie, Jenna Marbles and H3H3, to celebrities like Sophie Turner, Whoopi Goldberg and even Dr. Phil.

According to Variety, Paul himself was the one to take down the video on Jan. 2, and it took another 11 days for YouTube to formally respond to the controversy and cut ties with him. The website decided to remove him from their top ad platform service and ended production on all his YouTube Red series. This has been an appropriate but unacceptably slow response.

In my opinion, this slow reaction hints at YouTube’s willingness to turn a blind eye to Paul’s behaviour. After all, when Paul initially posted the video, it was reviewed and deemed acceptable by YouTube several times, not to mention hand-picked to be on the website’s trending page, according to Buzzfeed News.

This stings even more given that other creators on the platform are resorting to companies like Patreon and Twitch to get funding due to YouTube’s guideless algorithm. The algorithm—which didn’t stop Paul’s video from being accessible—has previously banned and de-monetized videos for mentioning things like the LGBTQ community, according to The Guardian.

As for Paul, his apology for the incident left a lot to be desired for those hoping for deeper self-reflection from the YouTuber. He has since been filmed by TMZ at an airport saying he is ready to continue producing content, and that he has learned a lot of lessons since the controversy. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Paul has had to worry about his financial situation, despite YouTube cancelling his Red series.

He’s right to not be concerned. Despite the loss of subscribers due to the scandal and outrage from the parents of many of his viewers, Paul’s channel is doing great. Whatever statement YouTube was trying to make with Paul’s punishment is falling flat, in my opinion. Subscriber increase has put him in the green since his controversy, according to Social Blade, a statistics website, and he is still promoting his ‘Maverick’ merchandise. Despite the incident, many of Paul’s fans have remained incredibly loyal and aggressively protective of him, calling his critics ‘haters.’

In November, YouTube had to crackdown on inappropriately violent content aimed towards young children, according to media network The Verge. It seems parents just aren’t looking at what their kids are doing online. The extremely graphic video created by Paul has been a long time coming. In his apology, Paul admitted he has made vlogs everyday for 465 days, and he constantly feels the need to push the envelope for his impressionable young audience.

As much as the blame should be put on Paul and YouTube for letting this disgusting content be published and trending, a larger issue hasn’t been highlighted. More open discussions need to happen between children and their parents about video content. I believe unchecked behaviour on the part of the viewer and the content producer is what allowed this video to be created. As much as Paul claims to have learned his lesson, we need to ask ourselves as consumers if we have to learn one too.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 

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