About a year after the YouTube ad pocalypse shook up the online video website, the company is imposing a penalty on another YouTube star for posting an obscene video. Logan Paul, a YouTube creator with 15 million subscribers, has been removed from the Google Preferred advertising platform. YouTube will not show Paul in the fourth season of Four, a YouTube Red show, and Paul’s other Originals projects have been suspended. This comes almost two weeks after Paul posted a video of him visiting Aokigahara in Japan, also known as the “suicide forest,” featuring a dead human body prominently in the video and in the video’s thumbnail.
YouTube’s punishment comes after the company made this original statement about this incident:
Our thoughts go out to the family of the person in the video. YouTube prohibits violent or gory content that is posted in a shocking, sensational, or disrespectful manner. If a video is graphic, it can only remain on the site if it is supported by appropriate educational or documentary information, and in some cases it will be outdated. We partner with safety groups such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to provide educational resources included in our YouTube Safety Center.
Amid outrage from the YouTube community and some celebrities, Logan Paul removed the video from YouTube and offered two apologies before announcing that he would be taking time off from YouTube “to think”.
How did a corpse end up on YouTube?
A little over a week after appearing on top chef, Paul uploaded the video in question on December 31, 2017. It showed him and some friends entering Aokigahara and finding the hanging body of a man believed to have committed suicide. The video thumbnail also featured an image of the body. The video was viewed millions of times and was on the YouTube Trending page for a while before community members and celebrities including Aaron Paul and Chrissy Teigen called out Paul for his insulting and disrespectful video. Paul removed the video from his channel shortly after.
YouTube issued its original statement above, and a few days later, the company said it was investigating “further implications” for Paul. The newly announced actions appear to be those consequences. The company also has a open letter to his community on Twitter, acknowledging the “lack of communication” and slow response time.
Google Preferred is the company’s top-rated advertising platform, and removing Paul means he won’t be making as much money monetizing his YouTube videos as before. Putting his YouTube Red and Originals projects “on hold” shows that YouTube isn’t ready to let him star in one of his massive productions made for its paid video platform.
However, it is unclear how Paul’s video was allowed to remain on YouTube for so long. YouTube’s guidelines do not allow violent or gory content posted in a manner intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful. While it is likely that YouTube would eventually have flagged the video, the systems and moderators did not do so until the video gained millions of views and likes.
Reminiscent of previous controversies
YouTube has chosen to scrutinize its creators more than ever after last year’s ad pocalypse, which began when advertisers took their ads off YouTube after learning that some were running for extremist and offensive content. Last year’s Pewdiepie controversy also contributed to the ad pocalypse – YouTube’s most-subscribed creator, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, was removed from Google Preferred, his YouTube Red show was canceled and was removed by Disney Maker Studios after a compilation of clips of him making anti-Semitic jokes went viral.
In the first half of 2017, YouTube introduced many new rules for creators, as well as tools to help advertisers better control where their ads appear on the website. The new YouTube guidelines and rules regarding objectionable and distasteful content have been seen by many as unclear as YouTubers, big and small, have their content dismantled or flagged (sometimes incorrectly) by YouTube’s system.
The system is clearly still under development, as evidenced by YouTube’s slow response to the Logan Paul situation. Community members were some of the loudest voices calling for YouTube to intervene, but individual advertisers were conspicuously absent from the outraged parties. So far, there have been no reports of advertisers taking ads off YouTube in response to the Logan Paul situation. It’s possible that, following YouTube’s response to the ad pocalypse, advertisers may become more comfortable with the effectiveness of YouTube’s new tools and the online video company’s ability to monitor creators.
While community members and some of the public have called for Paul’s channel to be terminated, it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. Paul would have to generate three account warnings within three months before YouTube would terminate his account (YouTube would have hit Paul’s account with one warning for this incident).
Now there are two ways YouTube can move forward after issuing Paul’s sentence: the company could consider the situation resolved and do nothing further, or we could see YouTube introducing new Community Guidelines or rules related to this incident. Given that this situation did not financially (at least not immediately) damage YouTube, we may not see additional rules from YouTube. The company handled the situation with the rules it had, albeit slowly. But the ramifications of the Logan Paul incident are likely to be felt by creators big and small (usually small), with YouTube cracking down even harder to prevent such content from being posted in the future.