It is now okay to feature dead bodies in your YouTube videos – as long as you’re one of the site’s favoured ‘stars’.
That’s the message YouTube has given, loud and clear, after what has been a shocking week for the site.
The controversy that began earlier this week, started following a video was uploaded by a YouTuber by the name of Logan Paul. In an extraordinary lapse of judgement on a catastrophic scale, Paul thought it was a good idea to go to a suicide blackspot and film a dead body he found there.
Unsurprisingly, this was not received well. Paul was widely criticised from both prominent YouTubers and other well-known celebrities. But, since I last wrote about this topic, the outrage has not shown any signs of abating.
Paul, for his part, has taken a break from YouTube – a well advised one at that. But now, people’s anger has switched more towards YouTube itself following a series of alarming revelations.
Remember how I talked about the video appearing on YouTube’s trending page, before it was finally removed by Paul himself? I’ve since learned that the way videos appear on this page is not controlled by an algorithm. This means that either an individual or group of people at YouTube determined that the video was perfectly acceptable. Despite its very content clearly breaking YouTube’s rules.
Even more concerning is this. Someone who helps YouTube by ‘flagging’ videos that he feels breaks those rules, brought Paul’s video to the attention of the site. He posted a screenshot to his twitter account, showing the date of when it was flagged and then manually reviewed. Once again, whoever was responsible for the reviewing process, felt that this content was acceptable for the audience of Paul’s 15 million subscribers – mainly young children – without imposing an age restriction or any other sanction on it.
Which means that, had Paul not removed the video himself, it would likely have been online for even longer and remained accessible to anyone. Indeed, some copies of the video have since been uploaded – some have made it back to the infamous trending page.
The other aspect that has led to uncomfortable questions is YouTube’s removal of dozens of videos from other content creators, who were criticising Paul and spreading awareness of the topic. This has led to further allegations that YouTube favours and wishes to protect one of its highest grossing stars.
Furthermore, it would seem that once he returns from his break, Paul will be able to continue as if nothing has happened. YouTube looks unlikely to sanction him, and rather than this incident leading to his demise from the site, sadly it looks like the opposite is true. Rather than losing subscribers, Paul has been gaining them over recent days. Work that one out.
Then, only the other day, Paul’s equally idiotic younger brother uploaded a video with this thumbnail to his channel. Once again, his audience is mostly young children. Perhaps he was feeling jealous that his brother was getting all the attention?
Throughout this mess, and these further developments, YouTube has remained persistently silent. It has refused to comment to numerous news sites and papers.
In my previous piece, I speculated on what YouTube’s action would be following Paul’s video. Sadly, it looks as if the answer is “nothing”. In doing so, it shows tacit approval of Paul’s actions. This is not a good look, and once again leads to questions about the ethics of the site.
We can only hope that YouTube has now opened Pandora’s box with its lack of action. That big YouTubers don’t feel a sense of invincibility that means they can do just about anything. YouTube has now backed itself into a corner – the next time someone steps out of line, YouTube will be unable to punish them without further allegations of favouritism.
If the first week of 2018 is anything to go by, it’s going to be a turbulent year for the internet’s most popular video sharing site.