Logan Paul suicide video makes another controversy for YouTube

Logan Paul YouTube
YouTube star Logan Paul, Photo: Logan Paul Vlogs /YouTube

YouTube has been in hot water recently over various forms in inappropriate content being shared on its website.  Following recent scandals about videos exploiting children making their way onto the YouTube kids app, YouTube is now dealing with another content crisis.

Big-time YouTuber Logan Paul uploaded a video that contained the dead body of a Japanese person who has taken their own life. This video featured Paul touring in Aokigahara, also known as the Japanese “suicide forest”.

The video of the dead body was live for over a day before Paul himself took it down following a huge amount of online backlash. During this timeframe it was viewed over 6 million times.

Some have argued that the video represented that YouTube was still a place where people could exploit inappropriate or shock content in order to succeed.

The video has not only created a PR crisis for Logan Paul but raised further criticisms of YouTube’s ability to moderate appropriate content and apparent hypocrisy in the way their guidelines are applied.

YouTube has for a long time enjoyed being the de-facto home of internet videos, being responsible for the viral spread of internet culture with a vast and never ending flow of content being uploaded. As the amount of content and rate at which it is uploaded begins to grow, it’s impossible for YouTube to moderate everything themselves.

Over the last year, YouTube has suffered through controversies regarding alleged anti-Jewish videos from its largest channel PewDiePie, the exodus of advertisers from the site following their ads running over controversial content and its algorithm promoting content aimed at children that ranged from low quality to downright inappropriate in nature.

Each controversy had managed to alienate its big video creators and fans by confusing them about what content is appropriate. While YouTube has taken strong stances in terms of de-monetizing content it deems inappropriate, there have been several inconsistencies in how these new guidelines have been applied.

Paul is one of YouTube’s biggest talents, being a main character on YouTube Red exclusive shows Foursome and The Thinning.  Paul has himself had a channel since 2015 and gained 3 billion views with 15 million subscribers.

Paul’s close working relationship with YouTube and his ability to generate revenue has led some to ask how YouTube could have ignored this video before it went live. Some have speculated that YouTube made a value judgement and took the risk to have the video uploaded for the profit it could generate.

This has fed into the existing criticisms of YouTube stating that the site only feigns a conscience in its moderation and will turn a ‘blind eye’ to videos it thinks can walk the line.

This is a bad start to 2018 for both Paul and YouTube and it will be curious to see how this controversy affects the ongoing discussion on video censorship.