Sea of Trees Forest, Fujikawaguchiko, Japan
Vlogger Logan Paul came under fire after posting a video on YouTube on December 31, 2017, that showed his encounter with the corpse of a suicide victim in a Japanese forest. The video was removed just two days later, but its initial publication ignited weeks of outcry on social media. YouTube issued an official condemnation of the incident and later distanced itself from Paul.
Logan Paul is a 22-year-old internet personality who regularly uploads comedic videos to YouTube, a practice known as vlogging. Paul has monetized his videos, meaning that he profits from the advertisements placed on his channel, which currently has more than 16 million subscribers. Although he chose not to monetize the video in question, Paul earned $12.5 million from his other videos in 2017.
YouTube is the Google-owned, video-sharing social network that hosts Paul’s content. Through its advertising program, Google Preferred, companies place ads on channels that the website identifies as highly influential.
On December 31, 2017, Paul posted a 15-minute YouTube video in which he wades into the Sea of Trees Forest in Japan, a place notorious for its high incidence of suicides. Early in the video, he happens upon the body of a suicide victim. He laughs and remarks, “Bro, did we just find a dead person in the suicide forest?” and “Are you fucking with us?” Later, when someone in his crew says he is uncomfortable, Paul jokes, “What, you’ve never stood next to a dead body before?” and laughs. In the video, he also urges people who are experiencing mental illness to seek help.
Two days after posting the video, and after it had received six million views, Paul removed it from his channel. By then, however, people on social media were decrying the vlogger for trivializing suicide, and a petition calling on YouTube to delete his channel had amassed 671,000 signatures. He issued a written apology on Twitter, saying he had “never made a mistake like this before” and that he did not “do it for views.” The following day, Paul issued another apology, this time in a video, in which he expressed regret for publishing the Sea of Trees Forest video and asked his fans not to defend him. He ended by promising to “be better.” That same day, a YouTube spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the video violated the website’s standards by portraying gory content in a “shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner.”
On January 9, 2018, YouTube posted an open letter to Twitter that condemned the incident, adding that suicide should never be “a driving force for views.” The next day, YouTube announced a series of sanctions against the social media star.
YouTube removes Paul as a preferred ad partner and cancels future projects with him
YouTube announced on January 10, 2018, that it would no longer include Paul in the Google Preferred program, meaning that his videos would not be flagged as highly influential for advertisers. The company said it would cut Paul from the fourth season of its original comedy series “Foursome” and would suspend any future projects with the vlogger.
Paul’s channel remains active
After YouTube’s sanctions, Paul continued to post videos weekly. He recently renewed his social media notoriety by posting a video in which he is shown tasing rats. As of March 7, 2018, his channel’s subscriber base had grown to nearly 17 million.
Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19
Uploaded March 20, 2018