Google has dished out a stiff punishment to Logan Paul that will limit his earning power and his visibility on YouTube for blasting out a controversial video showing a suicide victim in the Aokigahara, the Japanese forest where dozens of bodies are discovered every year.
The YouTube star has been dropped by Google Preferred, a special advertising program that connects top channels with brand advertisers, and from Foursome, a series on YouTube Red, the streaming service’s premium subscription service. YouTube says it’s also shelved plans for an upcoming original movie Paul was slated to appear in, “The Thinning: New World Order.”
The backlash over the suicide video, which showed a dead body hanging from a tree in what’s known as “suicide forest,” has raised questions about YouTube’s lax approach to videos uploaded to the service. It’s also shaken the mini digital empire the 22-year-old Paul built out of his prank-and-stunt-filled daily missives on YouTube watched by millions of followers, many of them tweens, teens and kids.
The suicide video, which YouTube says violated its community guidelines, fetched millions of views before Paul took it down. Millions more viewers tuned into his apology.
Lisa Flowers, a 53-year-old mom and social media strategist and marketing and public relations professional mom from Alexandria, Va., says Paul must be held responsible for his actions.
“While parents have a responsibility to take care of their children, we can’t be everywhere at once,” she said. “Logan Paul is making millions off of kids’ views on his YouTube channel.”
Initially YouTube issued a “Community Guidelines strike” against Paul. Three strikes in a three-month period can result in suspension from YouTube. But YouTube came under fire for not meting out a more serious punishment.
Last year, Felix Kjellberg, a Swedish vlogger (video blogger) known as PewDiePie who has nearly 59 million followers and is very popular with young people, had his original YouTube Red series canceled after the Wall Street Journal reported on videos with racist language and anti-semitic imagery. YouTube also removed PewDiePie from Google Preferred.
YouTube, which is facing growing condemnation for an increasing number of videos containing graphic or inappropriate content being uploaded to the platform, conceded this week that it took a long time to respond to public outrage.
“But we’ve been listening to everything you’ve been saying,” the streaming service said in a series of tweets, pledging to take steps “to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.”
“Suicide is not a joke, nor should it ever be a driving force for views. As Anna Akana put it perfectly: ‘That body was a person someone loved. You do not walk into a suicide forest with a camera and claim mental health awareness,'” YouTube said. “We expect more of the creators who build their community on @YouTube, as we’re sure you do too. The channel violated our community guidelines, we acted accordingly, and we are looking at further consequences.”
Eric Dahan, co-founder and CEO of Open Influence, says the controversy has woken up YouTube to the havoc that the missteps of one of its top content creators can wreak on its global brand. He expects stricter guidelines and increased monitoring on YouTube, even morality clauses for YouTube stars.
“Through its decision to cut ties with Logan Paul, YouTube is sending a clear message to influencers that they will be held responsible for their actions and that they need to think twice before sharing content that could be considered offensive or inappropriate,” Dahan said in an email.