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State of the YouTube: The consequences of controversy

by Sarah James The first month of the new year is almost over, and in the beginning weeks of 2018, the Internet saw a whirlwind of scandals. We’ve already discussed at length how Logan Paul’s outrageous video is disrespectful to Japanese culture, but what about how this video has impacted the YouTube community? A couple weeks after the suicide forest video was posted, YouTube decided to do something about it, but in many eyes, it was way too little, way too late. Content creators are not happy about the way Logan Paul’s situation was handled, especially when you compare it to the repercussions faced by PewDiePie last year. Was YouTube covering up for one of their poster boys, disregarding the hardworking YouTubers caught in the crossfire? And how on earth did we get to a point where a video showcasing a suicide victim ended up on the trending page with millions of views? Why are fans of Logan and Jake Paul still defending this video, and how did it get that many views in the first place? And since Logan has returned to YouTube, how will this situation impact him as a creator? https://twitter.com/evelynevelynxx/status/951450680883077120 Matthew Patrick of TheGameTheorists has an excellent video explaining how this outlandish video ended up getting so many views. Essentially, the way that YouTube’s algorithm works fuels controversial content. When YouTube videos are embedded on other sites, like news sites, YouTube pushes those videos to the forefront. So when a video is controversial and people have opinions on it, they post that video on their own site, which only provides more promotion. This is how a video which featured a dead body in the thumbnail got millions of views and was trending on YouTube before it was taken down. A video like this should have been flagged from the beginning. So how did Logan Paul get away with this? Part of it is because Logan and his brother, Jake, are not new to the notion that controversy sells. The brothers seem to go back and forth between crazy stunts and their newsworthiness. Remember last year when Jake Paul was in the news for being rude to his neighbors and releasing a diss track that capitalized on his meeting with a Make-A-Wish kid? Both Paul brother sare fueled off of controversial content, and shrug off legitimate criticism as “haters being haters” (dab on ‘em). Each video they create has to top the last, so it’s no wonder that Logan Paul ended up in this situation. He may have tried to play it off as a means to start a conversation about suicide, but if you watch clips of the video it becomes clear that he thought this video was going to be his next big thing. And in a way, he was right. https://twitter.com/iconredesign/status/953615176636383233 The most damning thing about this situation is that this stunt did not hurt Logan Paul. His fans supported his video even when he asked them to denounce him. His monetized apology video currently has over 47 million views, and his channel didn’t suffer at all from this controversy. Sure, when YouTube finally decided to act, they removed Logan Paul from Google Preferred advertising and cancelled his next YouTube Red project, but overall, the release of this suicide video has done more to help his channel than harm him. Because the video was on the trending page for as long as it was, people were still being pointed to Logan’s channel for more content. Even though the original video wasn’t monetized, videos from Logan that show up under “what to watch next” and are on autoplay are monetized, so he still has money to gain from a controversial video. And let’s not forget that Logan was the one to eventually take down his video after receiving backlash, not YouTube. Throughout this entire extravaganza, Logan Paul gained subscribers and made money, not the other way around like you might expect. Besides, his fanbase is beyond loyal, and the #Logang will always be there to defend his indefensible actions and dab on any haters who attack him. https://twitter.com/Shnuggles9537/status/953697948839358466 Logan didn’t take much of a hit from posting this video, and in the long run, this may have even benefitted his career and brought more people to his content. Meanwhile, other creators who have covered this story are still being hit with demonetization. Which brings us to yesterday, when Logan Paul returned to YouTube. Wednesday afternoon, Logan uploaded a video titled “Suicide: Be Here Now.” In the video he explains that the aftermath of his “WE FOUND A DEAD BODY” video opened his eyes to real problems of suicide, and just how prevalent mental health issues are. The video showcases Kevin Hines, a suicide survivor, as well as Dr. John Draper of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Logan states at the beginning of the video, “I know I’ve made mistakes. I know I’ve let people down. But what happens if you’re given an opportunity to help make a difference in the world?” At first, the video seems to be more centered around Logan being sorry for his mistakes, but then it shifts and we learn that he was really just ignorant of the complexities of suicide and how many people are affected by it. He takes time to listen to people, provides tips for those who have someone in their lives with suicidal thoughts, and promises to use the following he has to create more awareness about the issue. I must admit, I was impressed by this video. He seems to be very genuine in his acceptance of his mistake and provides resources for people who may need to seek help. It’s true that videos like this from large creators like Logan Paul could help erase the stigmas surrounding suicide and further the much-needed conversation about mental health. But would Logan have fought for such a cause if he had never uploaded his original video? Probably not. So if the original video had to happen in order to get a Logan Paul who will advocate for those with mental illness, was it worth it? Would we have been better off with a Logan Paul who continued to pull crazy stunts until he disrespected another group of people? What does this mean for the future of his channel? What about his brother’s channel? How much of the #Logang will support this new direction and how many of them will want the old reckless Logan back?

Because of the way this algorithm works, people are prone to create YouTube drama by physically attacking other YouTubers, pulling stunts that could ultimately kill someone, and even depicting a dead body in a thumbnail image.
At this point, it’s hard to say what’s in store for Logan Paul. While I ultimately think that his most recent video is good for opening up conversation, I’m still skeptical of his motives as a creator. It will be interesting to see if his subscriber count changes because of this shift in his channel. Until then, here’s a note for the overall platform: Hey Youtube. If you want to prevent videos like Logan’s suicide video from reaching the point that it did, maybe you should stop incentivizing the creation of controversial content that always needs to push the envelope. Because of the way this algorithm works, people are prone to create YouTube drama by physically attacking other YouTubers, pulling stunts that could ultimately kill someone, and even depicting a dead body in a thumbnail image. YouTube used to be the place of the everyday creator, where people could share their hobbies and opinions with like-minded people and find a community they could escape to. Now, YouTube fanbases are becoming hostile, toxic and sometimes even dangerous places, and if the algorithm continues to promote the creation of controversy, it's only going to lead to more people getting hurt.
Sources: Byte, YouTube Images: Twitter, YouTube, Today