Logan Paul in hot water with YouTube

How far is too far for a YouTube star? It seems like Logan Paul just found out. The video maker had amassed a legion of fans by posting a new video nearly every day, but none of them gained the attention he has now.

What did Logan Paul do?

Recently, Paul posted a video including an image of a “suicide forest” in Japan. The video shows a body hanging from a tree. Paul eventually removed the video, but not before it was viewed countless times. The YouTube star said he was sorry about posting the video, and that his intention had been to “raise awareness for suicide prevention…”

That was not how most people interpreted the intent. YouTube received numerous complaints, and the platform has since confirmed the video did, in fact, violate the social media channel’s policies. Speaking to CNN, a YouTube representative said:

“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.”

The company did not say why it had failed to remove the video soon after the initial complaints, saying only that it ‘had been removed’ by Paul.

The company does have clearly expressed policies about “violent and gory” content, saying that content that’s meant to be “shocking, sensational or gratuitous” will not be allowed, unless the content has “additional context and information…”

Regardless of his apology and removal of the video, Paul continues to be blasted online. People have called him heartless and horrible … and worse.

PR Insights of the Mess

The incident was a brush with negative PR for both the platform and the platform’s star. Both had to deal with questions about why the content was posted or allowed. YouTube is also dealing with allegations of unfair treatment of videos for, in some cases, pulling videos “too quickly” or for inconsistent reasons. The fact that the company left the video up for some time even after complaints lent steam to these allegations.

Meanwhile, Paul is apparently not going to get away with only an apology on this. He will need to express some personal evolution in his judgment if he’s going to win back disaffected fans. This is one of the inherent challenges with user-generated YouTube content. Where TV programs and movies have entire rooms full of people making decisions and considering PR implications, sometimes YouTube stars just point, shoot, and ask questions later.

That approach can make them wildly popular. It can also blow up in their faces. Paul is just the latest example of the latter.

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