Viral YouTuber Logan Paul’s recent trip to Japan culminated to a video of him laughing at a hanged man in a Japanese forest. Unsurprisingly, his channel has not experienced any tangible repercussions from YouTube, once again showing how favoritism overrides the platform’s content control rules.
It doesn’t need to be restated that Paul’s actions were disrespectful to everyone both involved in and exposed to the video. It also should be clear to most people at this point that, yes, Paul is a pretty terrible human being for someone with the influence that he has (15.5 million YouTube subscribers have proven time and again to be a potentially destructive tool at his disposal). It should, however, be noted that YouTube has been painfully lenient with Paul’s actions and unusually strict with people attempting to discuss his actions.
For those lucky enough to be unversed in YouTube’s current content control systems (congratulations on developing strong time-management skills), an algorithm scans all videos uploaded to the platform and automatically detect potentially disturbing, violent or generally unsavory content. It will then decide whether to simply demonetize the video, making the uploader unable to gain ad revenue from views, or to delete it entirely.
This system is fairly new, and has been wrongly demonetizing videos left and right throughout the landscape of YouTube content creators. Uploaders can appeal the decision, and, while monetization can usually be reinstated on a video, it often comes after videos have already brought in a bulk of its views. Furthermore, the whole process of having to submit a video for reanalysis is tedious and ridiculous to ask of creators who hardly produce controversial content.
Food reviewer “TheReportOfTheWeek” was hit with a demonetization check on his video describing his lackluster customer experience with JetBlue airlines, despite him maintaining a family-friendly vocabulary and disposition throughout his story. The algorithm has a tendency of striking videos from large channels with literally no infractions, making it extremely likely that a popular video will be hit purely because of its potential viewer base.
The truly graphic videos that pass through the algorithm everyday are either uploaded on channels too obscure to be detected or loaded with false metadata (titles, tags, thumbnails and the like) to pass through. It’s insane that Paul’s channel, considering the massive following it has, is not better reviewed for these types of images, especially considering this isn’t his first time exposing his young fan base to disgustingly mature imagery.
He faked his death nine months ago, detonating blood squibs and bringing in a fake shotgun to completely sell the illusion that he had been shot in the back of the head. This track record combined with his massive, young audience should mean that his videos are heavily checked for graphic content, and yet the image of a hanged man was allowed to be seen by millions. It is obvious that Paul’s instant-hit vlogs are a delicious source of revenue for YouTube’s advertisers, and this situation perfectly displays how biased they are to channels that are wildly successful.
Paul claims that the original vlog was not monetized to begin with due to the sensitive imagery, but the fact that it was even allowed to be uploaded is insane considering the lengths YouTube will go to censor certain topics.
One of the most infamous cases of their censorship occurred in mid-2017, when YouTube blocked content from LGBT creators from being viewed in its safe-mode feature, causing people to question why these channels would be considered unsuitable for children. In a case related to Paul, gaming YouTuber “penguinz0” (more commonly known as “Cr1tikal”) had his video “Logan Paul Laughing at a Dead Man” completely removed by YouTube under the pretense of containing false metadata. While his video doesn’t have the most clever title, it was completely truthful and offered a straightforward, if at times vulgar, opinion of the situation.
While this instance doesn’t crack the case of YouTube’s long-alleged favoritism toward extremely large channels, it does seriously hurt their already crippled reputation in the eyes of content creators.
Paul’s account is still up and running, and, although he announced that he will be taking a break from YouTube following this debacle, I give him two weeks before he’s back being the public nuisance the world has grown to love and hate. He has gained nearly 400,000 subscribers since his inflammatory vlog was uploaded, and his merchandise store and company endorsements are, as of now, still intact.
He will face hardly any repercussions as YouTube seems unwilling to disturb one of its most popular creators, and public opinion of him will not change so much as shift to more extreme versions of the love or hate anyone already felt toward him. If there is one takeaway from this, it shouldn’t be that Paul deserves to have his YouTube channel deleted or toppled from his throne of social media influencing; rather, YouTube should be heavily scrutinized for being uncharacteristically lenient with profitable creators while daily putting others through the wringer.
Isaac Espinosa is a third-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.