YouTube star Logan Paul is drowning in a sea of backlash today over a video in which he knowingly filmed the dead body of an apparent suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. The 22-year-old prankster has removed the video and apologized multiple times as criticism of the stunt exploded on social media–with everyone from fellow YouTubers to celebrities like Chrissy Teigen weighing in. Many called the video tasteless and unforgivable.
The controversy comes at a time when the Google-owned YouTube has been trying to crack down on all forms of unsavory content, whether it’s videos from extremist groups or vulgar comments aimed at children. Exactly where Paul’s video falls on the spectrum of tastelessness is open to debate, but there’s little doubt it violated YouTube’s Community Guidelines as written. I reached out to YouTube for comment, and here’s what a company spokesperson told me:
“Our hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video. YouTube prohibits violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner. If a video is graphic, it can only remain on the site when supported by appropriate educational or documentary information and in some cases it will be age-gated. We partner with safety groups such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to provide educational resources that are incorporated in our YouTube Safety Center.”
In other words, YouTube may allow graphic content under certain circumstances–a documentary, a news clip, an educational video–but doing it for shock value alone won’t cut it. In Paul’s case, when he filmed the body, he was in an area known for its high number of suicides, and his videos are largely done for entertainment purposes.
So does that mean YouTube will take action against Logan? The company wouldn’t comment on that, but don’t hold your breath. YouTube uses a strike system to deal with content violations, meaning it takes multiple violations within a three-month period for action to be taken. Moreover, since Logan removed the video himself, it’s unclear if YouTube’s normal flagging system came into play here.