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Over a week after YouTuber Logan Paul faced a deluge of criticism for sharing an image of a suicide victim in a video, YouTube has condemned the post, saying, “suicide is not a joke, nor should it ever be a driving force for views.”
On Tuesday, YouTube posted an apology in a series of tweets on the platform’s official Twitter page. “Many of you have been frustrated with our lack of communication recently. You’re right to be. You deserve to know what’s going on,” the platform said in its statement. “Like many others, we were upset by the video that was shared last week. Suicide is not a joke, nor should it ever be a driving force for views.”
YouTube’s roller-coaster year with advertisers reached its climax in the final hours of 2017 when Logan Paul posted a video of a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest. The backlash was swift, but as the dust settles on the incident (Paul has apologized and temporarily suspended his blog as he takes “time to reflect”), the YouTube community is grappling with what the long-term impact could be on their business.
Over the last several months, YouTube has had to reckon with how to placate advertisers without alienating their homegrown talent base. In a Dec. 4 blog post, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki pledged to grow Google’s content moderation team to over 10,000 people and enforce stricter criteria on videos eligible for advertising. And now many creators — who have dubbed the last few months the “adpocalypse” because they have seen their advertising revenue drop significantly, in some cases as much as 50 percent — are trying to clean up their channels in a bid to court more brands.
“It’s growing up,” says Scott Fisher, founder of talent management firm Select Management Group, of the digital video industry. “A lot of content that was being monetized, shouldn’t have been monetized to begin with. This is helping creators understand what brands are paying for and what they’re looking for. It’s not just eyeballs, it’s quality eyeballs.”
Some of the platform’s biggest stars and their reps have condemned Paul’s video publicly, and privately they express disappointment over how one creator’s actions could impact how brands view YouTube as a whole. Already, advertisers had been skittish about placing spots on the world’s largest online video platform following concerns over its ability to monitor inappropriate, violent and exploitative content; and that concern is not expected to subside overnight.
One media buyer predicts that brands will start to be more selective about which creators they work with going forward. “The broader evolution that I believe will take place in the next two years is a clear divide of social media talent,” says Shenan Reed, president of L’Equipe L’Oreal at Wavemaker. “There will be real talent, that run a business that has their name on the door, tomorrow’s Oprah and Martha Stewart. And then there will be the others, who will have to wait to get discovered to truly break into the realms of receiving advertising dollars.”
According to YouTube, Paul’s channel violated its community guidelines, and the platform “acted accordingly” and is looking at “further consequences.”
Read the statement in full below.
An open letter to our community: Many of you have been frustrated with our lack of communication recently. You’re right to be. You deserve to know what’s going on. Like many others, we were upset by the video that was shared last week. Suicide is not a joke, nor should it ever be a driving force for views. As Anna Akana put it perfectly: “That body was a person someone loved. You do not walk into a suicide forest with a camera and claim mental health awareness.” We expect more of the creators who build their community on @YouTube, as we’re sure you do too. The channel violated our community guidelines, we acted accordingly, and we are looking at further consequences. It’s taken us a long time to respond, but we’ve been listening to everything you’ve been saying. We know that the actions of one creator can affect the entire community, so we’ll have more to share soon on steps we’re taking to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.
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