By Megan Sulak, staff writer
After sophomore Lizzy Mitchell finished watching YouTuber Logan Paul’s vlog from New Year’s Eve about Aokigahara, Japan’s “suicide forest” (see “edge title”), she immediately unsubscribed from his channel. Throughout the video, Mitchell wondered why Paul was even recording the forest in the first place.
Like Mitchell, YouTube’s mass audience reacted negatively to the video. For many of Mitchell’s peers, who are part of the main age group following Paul’s channel, this situation brought to question the subjects of media regulation.
Although the video was taken down by Paul less than 24 hours after putting it up, YouTube did not comment on the issue until nine days after the video was taken down. School psychologist Dr. Jay Kyp-Johnson believes that YouTube is partially responsible for what happened.
“They want to say, ‘It’s just a platform, we didn’t say that was OK,’” Kyp-Johnson said. “Yeah, but you built the platform. … These businesses are totally responsible for what happens on their platforms.”
On Jan. 9, YouTube tweeted about the issue, saying, “Like many others, we were upset by the video that was shared last week. … Suicide is not a joke, nor should it ever be a driving force for views. … We know that the actions of one creator can affect the entire community, so we’ll have more to share soon on steps we’re taking to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.”
YouTuber and senior Emily Lasky was one of the millions who viewed the vlog, watching part of it through a retweeted Twitter post and the the rest of the vlog through a react channel called Boneclinks. When she finished watching the part in which Paul mocks a hanging body in the “suicide forest,” she was shocked and even disgusted at the channel that made the reaction video.
“I couldn’t believe that someone had actually edited that content [and] thought it was a good idea to post,” Lasky said.
Within two days of the incident, Paul’s channel gained 98,225 new subscribers. His channel currently has 16 million subscribers.
According to Global News, Paul was suspended from his channel for 3.5 ½ weeks and has been removed from other projects he is involved in, such as his YouTube Red movie “The Thinning: New World Order” and YouTube Red’s television series “Foursome.” He has also lost his spot on Google Preferred, a platform where brands advertisers have access to the most popular channels.
Along with Paul’s removal and suspension, YouTube came out on Jan. 16, saying that new requirements for videos will be taking action on Feb. 20.
YouTube will use these new requirements for video monetization and advertisements. YouTubers will need a total of 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and have 1,000 subscribers or more. If smaller channels do not meet these requirements, they will not receive advertising deals. Lasky, who has 455 subscribers and 15 videos, does not think these requirements are fair.
“The big channels are the ones with the huge audiences,” Lasky said. “I feel like they need to be the ones watched [by YouTube] instead of these super small channels that are trying to make it [and] trying to create a brand. … YouTube has decided to make small channels pay for mistakes that this ginormous channel made.”
In March 2017, Oakley posted a video titled “Eight Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me.” This video was demonetized because YouTube believed it wasn’t following the older YouTube guidelines. For this reason, it was classified as “restricted.” Mongeau was also recently demonetized for posting a react video to Logan Paul’s controversial vlog.
“It’s really really easy to get demonetized,” Lasky said. “If you swear, you’re demonetized. There’s a lot of things like that which I think [are] ridiculous. I think I’d much rather have someone swearing in a video than filming a dead body.”
Lasky also believes that even though YouTube made rules before this issue, such as no hateful, violent, graphic, harmful or dangerous content, some viewers and creators don’t follow those rules.
“I don’t think YouTube really realizes that all of their content represents them as a company [and] represents their brand,” Lasky said. “The way that they look at it is that each content creator represents themselves and represents their own brand, but as a whole, that’s still their job to regulate what’s coming in and out.”
Overall, Lasky believes that this was a wake-up call for her and how she portrays herself on her own vlogs.
“I just think that the things that I put out on my vlogs will affect me directly,” Lasky said. “No matter how small a creator might be, you still have an audience and there are people watching your videos. It’s important to be aware of the messages that you’re sending out, what that says about you, [and] what it says about your brand.”