On Jan. 1, an article went live on “New York Magazine’s” website about popular YouTube star Logan Paul and a recent vlog (a blog in video format) about an apparent suicide in Aokigahara, a forest also known as “suicide forest” near Mt. Fuji in Japan.
At the time of this op ed’s publication, the video has been removed from his channel. However, the video can easily be found on various social networking sites.
Warning: Language and snippets from Logan Paul’s controversial video are involved. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.
The uproar ultimately influenced an apology from Paul via Twitter.
Due to the history of the forest being so closely associated with suicide, it is not easy to confirm whether or not Paul’s video was faked for shock value. Some supporters might attempt to justify the actions of Paul and those with him during the initial recording, which is unfortunate. The video was exploitative in its nature. How so? Paul decided to include information for the American Society for Suicide Prevention in the video description, yet still shared a video that could influence traumatic reactions.
This was not a movie. This was not something that consumers paid to see in a theater with an understanding of it being fictional. For such “genuine” care and concern for the well-being of his viewers, omitting the visuals in favor of speaking about what he saw would have been sufficient.
Sadly, unsettling videos on social media are not new, but YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and should have greater control over harmful content.
Ironically, there seem to be no issues with demonetization policies (inserts tongue into cheek), so the time used poorly patrolling videos of less problematic content should be redirected toward much larger problems.
YouTube has had an issue for several years now with allowing some of its high-profile content creators to get away with antisemitism, racism (oh look, Logan’s brother!), homophobia, the beastliness of beauty, rape culture and many other aspects of the ugly side of humanity. By choosing to allow most countries with access to easily search for videos about these things is scary, to say the least. To think, YouTube started as a dating website, and although it’s not Tinder, it became just as bad.
So, what should the digital behemoth do to rectify itself in 2018 and beyond? Here are a few suggestions.
- Make a paid platform, similar to YouTube Red, for those who want to watch “that type” of content. Freedom of speech is an inalienable right and on the Worldwide Web, even the ugly stuff has a right to exist. If YouTube strives to present itself as being of greater ethical fiber, it doesn’t have to alienate this type of audience. It only has to demand that they pay for their smut.
- Enhance, guarantee and mandate YouTube Certification. Currently, brand partners, companies, agencies and individuals can apply to be certified on YouTube, but the platform takes a hands-off approach to the quality of the content provided by certification holders. That sounds relatively useless. YouTube can enhance this certification by creating diversity and ethics initiatives that various subscription tiers must adhere to. If the content creator desires to continue creating on the free platform (in the event the aforementioned suggestion is established) they must renew their certification regularly.
- Hold Multichannel Networks (MCNs) accountable for their roster. MCNs accumulate hundreds or thousands of content creators and entice them with the possibility of resources and channel promotion. As the queen bee of the video hive, YouTube can appoint a team to handle dialogue directly with content creators who challenge its business code of conduct.
These ideas have the capacity for further development and execution by one of the world’s most powerful companies and in a timely fashion. Additionally, businesses and brands that work with developing content creators at various points in their online careers, such as those listed in the YouTube Creator Services Directory or MACG Productions (the parent company of MACG Magazine), are beneficial resources for cultivating creative quality and integrity.
My heart goes out to those who watched Paul’s video. My heart especially goes out to those who are dealing with the impact of a loved one’s choice to commit suicide. As continued advocates for well-being, MACG Magazine leaves you with a link to resources and crisis hotlines from around the world.
And as for you, YouTube, step your game up.