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YouTube star Logan Paul came under fire for posting a video of an apparent suicide victim in Japan’s “suicide forest,” Aokigahara.
LOS ANGELES — Logan Paul has filmed himself with the corpse of a suicide victim, shot a Taser gun at a motionless rat, launched into a racist rant directed at Japanese citizens and joked with his followers about ingesting Tide Pod detergent capsules — all in the name of maintaining his YouTube stardom.
And that’s just in the past few weeks.
Why would YouTube continue to allow his antics on the Google-owned network? And what more will it take before the ad-supported network rids itself of this publicity headache, one who earned $12.5 million in 2017, according to Forbes?
YouTube gave 22-year-old Paul a second rap on the wrist Friday, by temporarily deleting advertising from his channel, the most popular in the genre of teen/young adult vlogger on YouTube, according to measurement service TubularLabs.
Paul was ranked eleventh overall for December, with 314 million views for his videos. (RyanToysreview, featuring a young child unboxing and playing with toys, is tops, followed by a string of other kid-related programming, wrestling and Spanish language videos.)
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This follows YouTube yanking Paul from its preferred advertising program, which rewards creators who have large followings with a bigger slice of the ad revenues.Paul apologized for his actions in having sought out and posed with the corpse of the suicide victim, then reverted to his old ways, posting the new video with the rat this week. Also Paul on Twitter, in a since-deleted tweet, suggested he’d eat a Tide Pod for every retweet from his 4.2 million followers, an attempt at humor that encouraging toying with a dangerous trend that has sent dozens to the hospital.
Now YouTube has removed all advertising from the Paul YouTube channels, because “we believe he has exhibited a pattern of behavior in his videos that makes his channel not only unsuitable for advertisers, but also potentially damaging to the broader creator community,” said YouTube in a statement.
Friday, it updated its overall violations policy for all creators to include removal from the preferred ad program, taking ads off a creators channel and not including their videos in the recommendations tabs.
What YouTube hasn’t done is delete Paul’s channel and take away his access to millions of viewers, where he promotes his lucrative merchandise. YouTube also hasn’t removed many of the offensive Paul videos, including the rat episode or the ones from Japan where he tormented locals, in one scene throwing a Game Boy on the ground and then telling the shop keeper it is “much-o, broken-o.” These and are comments where he stereotypes Asians and Japanese were compiled in a widely share video in early January.
“Suspending ads is a half measure that will do nothing to prevent another move by this individual,” says Chris Alleri of Mulberry Astor, a New York based marketing firm. “YouTube has one option at this point: delete the channel. Anything else will be seen as weak and permissive.”
A petition on Change.org calling for YouTube to do just that has pulled in over 500,000 signatures.
But Joshua Cohen, the co-founder of TubeFilter, a blog that covers online video, says to deletethe channel would “set a dangerous precedent,” for YouTube. “The power of YouTube is that it gives anyone a voice. It’s okay to have programming on the platform that doesn’t appeal to everyone” if YouTube polices it.
While losing the ads for an unspecific period of time is a hit, Cohen says, overall it’s a slap on the wrist since Paul probably depends on merchandise sales for two-thirds of its income. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was worth at least $8 million,” last year, he says.
This isn’t the first controversy YouTube hasencountered in dealing with provocative video creators. In 2017, it was Swedish PewDiePie (real name, Felix Kjelberg) who got into trouble for slipping racist language and Nazi propaganda into videos. YouTube also removed him from the preferred program and temporarily suspended ads from his account. “It made an impact,” says Cohen.
Cohen believes YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is doing the right things by following the PewDiePie playbook with Paul. “It’s a huge platform getting a lot more attention, so there’s a greater responsibility. These are growing pains.”
Some 400 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, via an automated process that puts the videos directly on the channel without human intervention.
Videos were pulled or altered once they are flagged by users, which is how videos like Paul’s and others that stretch boundaries..
For 2018, Wojcicki has said she will add more human oversight — in addition to the machines — to oversee YouTube content, which Cohen applauds.
When asked for comment, YouTube referred USA TODAY to its community guidelines, which state it’s three-strike policy before deleting a channel.
Logan Paul— it’s your move.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham