YouTube responds following controversial Logan Paul video

3 Jan 2018

Logan Paul in December 2017. Image: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

The latest video of one of YouTube’s biggest stars, Logan Paul, has caused widespread outrage around the world.

Logan Paul is a YouTube stalwart whose channel boasts more than 15m subscribers, and he has become renowned for videos depicting outlandish pranks and stunts.

However, a video posted by Paul on a recent trip to Japan on 31 December 2017 has seen calls for him to be banned from the platform.

Backlash against Logan Paul

In a video titled ‘We Found A Dead Body in Japan’s Suicide Forest’, Paul and his friends were shown wandering in a forest near Mount Fuji, a notorious location choice for people who wish to end their own lives.

The video Paul shared appeared to depict the body of a man who had died by suicide and, although Paul appeared shocked at first, he eventually began cracking jokes about the situation and saw fit to upload the footage to YouTube.

The video was live for more than 24 hours until Paul himself removed it as public backlash grew but, according to New York Magazineit had already been viewed more than 6m times at that stage.

As many of Paul’s fans are children and teenagers, parents and fans alike were angered by the footage. Although he said he was trying to “raise awareness” of mental health problems by uploading the video, many are calling for him to be banned from the platform for exploiting a stranger’s death for views. According to The Japan Times, the country has one of the highest suicide rates on the planet.

The content was not monetised.

Paul has since apologised twice; once on Twitter, where he said he was trying to make a “positive ripple on the internet” and again on video, describing the incident as a “continuous lapse in judgement”.

YouTube’s role

There have been continued calls and petitions for YouTube to delete Paul’s channel.

YouTube responded: “Our hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video. YouTube prohibits violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner.

“If a video is graphic, it can only remain on the site when supported by appropriate educational or documentary information and, in some cases, it will be age-gated.

“We partner with safety groups such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to provide educational resources that are incorporated in our YouTube Safety Centre.”

YouTube has been plagued with controversy in recent times as it struggles to adequately moderate the content uploaded to its platform, particularly content that young people may be greatly disturbed by.

Worth bearing in mind is that stars such as Logan Paul generate large amounts of revenue for YouTube, with the company even choosing him to appear in a feature film on YouTube Red called The Thinning in 2016.

According to one member of YouTube’s content assessment team, the video had been approved by a paid moderator on 1 January, despite it depicting a hanging body in the thumbnail, among other red flags, as BuzzFeed first reported.

There has been no update in terms of potential sanctions against Paul or his channel as of yet, but the incident further highlights the major problem that YouTube is having in terms of content moderation.

Although it is investing in more content reviewers and artificial intelligence, it’s blindingly obvious that more needs to be done to tackle this mammoth issue. More transparency around the calls made when flagging content and management of incidents such as this is sorely needed.

Logan Paul in December 2017. Image: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects