“That giant mountain structure is Mount Fiji. That is where they make Fiji water. No. Fuji apples are made there. Fiji water is made there. Don’t tell me you don’t learn anything on this channel! Ayo, good morning Logang … Let’s recap for a second–guys, I hope you had an amazing year. I hope you achieved all the goals you wanted to. I hope you got “A”s on all your tests. I hope you got in better shape, but if you didn’t, come up with a new year’s resolution before the end of the vlog, [because we’re going to]make 2018 great.”
– Logan Paul, “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…”
This is just a snapshot of disgraced American vlogger Jake Paul’s infamous video, “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…” uploaded on the video sharing platform YouTube on Dec. 31. In the video, Paul and his friends film their responses to discovering a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. Paul’s careless treatment of the deceased, including but not limited to laughing upon discovery of the corpse and featuring the uncensored footage on his kid-friendly channel, met widespread backlash from parents, actors, and fellow YouTubers. In response to the criticism, Paul deleted his video the following day and issued apologies on Twitter and YouTube before ultimately declaring an indefinite break from the site on Jan. 4.
Though the crux of the Logan Paul debacle may have blown over, its implications are none too trivial. In the eye of the casual viewer, Paul may have, in the words of a naive fangirl, “messed up.” But had there been an environment that clearly shunned such view-crazed festivities, would Paul have dared post such disrespectful, insensitive material? Had there been the proper filters and reviewing systems, would the video been the ranked fifth among trending videos on YouTube the following afternoon? Had parents seen the nature of the vlogger’s allegedly “child-friendly” content, would Logan Paul be allowed to upload any of his wildly popular vlogs at all?
Logan Paul is not the stereotypical goody-two-shoes. In fact, his content is the antithesis of what is touted as good behavior. The vine-star-turned-YouTuber often uses cheap jokes and dangerous stunts to promote his YouTube channel, “Logan Paul Vlogs.” Paul’s worst qualities come to light through his behavior during his trip to Japan, from smashing GameBoys and demanding refunds to randomly throwing stuffed Pokéballs at police officers. Despite his actions, the vlogger has and continues to maintain his popularity on YouTube; according to Social Blade, a statistics account for Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, the channel has gained 15 million followers, becoming the 49th most popular channel on YouTube in just two years. Paul’s staunchly ignorant, pre-pubescent fans have continued to show their support for Paul, posting lengthy tirades in the star’s favor and diverting the public’s attention to Paul’s mission to “promote suicide prevention.” In the eye of mainstream media and beyond, Paul is just the latest case in a long line of vapid celebrities profiting off crude drama. In the depths of Twitter and Tumblr, he is a pariah and a typical case of misunderstood talent.
Clickbait or no clickbait, mistake or planned publicity stunt, the contention does not revolve around Paul’s video. No matter how many shows and advertisement services drop Paul, the environment that allowed Paul to thrive in the first place will not have changed a bit. The internet is a big place. With the right video editing program and a working internet connection, anyone can publish anything online. Paul’s surfacing as a major face in online entertainment signifies that despite his behavior, a large number of online users will still gobble up his content. Whether they choose to do so because of ignorance, genuine personal preference, or both is still hard to determine. However, one thing is clear: whatever filtering system YouTube has is not working. More importantly, the safeguards parents and guardians had, if any, to protect their children from such content has failed them.
Celebrities can make mistakes. However, regardless of what is found online, we as responsible viewers have an obligation to protect those unable to filter out sensitive content on their own. In that sense, perhaps the best response to Logan Paul’s actions may take place in the complete re-assessment of pre-existing filtering systems. Regardless of popularity and reputation, video filtering systems should focus on eliminating videos containing the actual sensitive topics that hurt and offend viewers, instead of blindly banning keywords containing “LGBT” or “depression.” Solutions could lie in both small and big actions, from fine-tuning the algorithm designed to rate and ban videos centered on controversial topics to actually hiring human moderators to do the job instead. The pied piper may have played his little tune, but a prompt and appropriate response could save his viewers before it becomes too late.