Senior Staff Writer
YouTube has been the center of heated debates over the past month. The scandal started after YouTuber Logan Paul shared his New Year’s Eve vlog that showed him and his friends entering a “suicide forest” in Japan, filming a dead body and laughing at it.
People were quick to notice the horrendous scene in this video and attacked the YouTuber, which caused him to delete the video and issue two apologies. While his apologies were unconvincing to many, this video revealed bigger issues such as the way YouTube treats some of its creators, whether it favors some over others, and what the real role of YouTubers should be.
Ever since the shutdown of the Vine application in late 2016, many of its former users switched to YouTube and heavily impacted the platform. With famous Viners such as Logan Paul, Lele Pons and Liza Koshy achieving tremendous success on their new platform, “older” YouTube stars including Ryan Higa, Lilly Singh, Colleen Ballinger and many more had a hard time keeping up with the constant and sudden changes caused by the website.
YouTubers were first seen as entertainers who often send an important message with their work. They were people who just did something they loved and enjoyed making other people happy with their content.
Over the past year, YouTube’s new algorithms and its bureaucratic way of treating its creators felt like it was killing creative and meaningful videos for the sake of random content that generates many views.
It has also been demonetizing any video that it deems inappropriate, but in a questionable way. Indeed, videos simply containing words such as “sex” or “menstruation” would get demonetized while videos posted by the Islamic State or the KKK calling for new members were not even directly deleted by the website, despite reports of high radicalization rates from these videos.
With this whirlwind of changes and controversies, several YouTubers started either shifting away from their original job or losing their channels’ key goals for the sake of getting views by making videos such as “diss” tracks (rap songs dissing at someone), smash or pass videos, clickbait videos, and so on.
It is unfortunate to see a prominent YouTuber such as Lilly Singh, who uses her channel to help people fight depression, sexism, racism and other social issues, being overshadowed by Logan Paul, who makes irresponsible pranks, encourages very reckless behavior and literally laughs in the face of suicide.
What is even more alarming is that the majority of his audience includes children and exposing them to this harmful content can have detrimental consequences.
A YouTuber can have a much better relationship with his or her fans than a mainstream celebrity, since the viewers get to know them a lot better and follow them throughout their lives. Having this advantage, YouTubers must take into account how big their impact on people can be. They cannot simply turn YouTube into yet another commercial business with no moral values whatsoever.
YouTube creators have the power to be influential advocates for humanitarian causes and actually spark a positive change in their respective societies. They must not let their search for fame and money determine what kind of content they decide to share.