Tech & The Web

YouTube Star Apologizes for Video Showing Suicide Victim

Footage of a suicide victim caught on camera in a forest famous for the number of suicides there led a YouTube star to remove the video and post an apology.

If you were taking a camera into a place where suicides reportedly were commonplace, could you really be surprised if you managed to get an apparent suicide victim on camera?

A YouTube star issued an apology this week for showing the graphic footage of an apparent suicide victim.

But first things first.

It happened at Aokigahara, a forest on the northwestern flank of Japan’s Mount Fuji. There are a few curious things about the forest. For one, the trees stand on ground once covered in lava; the hardened lava absorbs sound effectively, and in more dense parts of the forest, the silence can be both appealing and quite eerie, I’m told. Another thing worth noting about Aokigahara is a pair of chilling reputations: it’s simultaneously known as a home to ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology and one of the world’s most popular suicide cites.

It has apparently become so popular for people wishing to do something drastic that signs have been posted at the start of some trails that urge suicide visitors to consider their families and to reach out to a suicide prevention association for help.

It’s difficult to nail down exact suicide stats, reportedly because the forest is so lush in places that some corpses could potentially go undiscovered for years or might even be forever lost. But some estimates claim as many as 100 people successfully end their lives there annually.

The most popular method of suicide in the forest is hanging.

Enter YouTube star Logan Paul. If you’ve never heard of him, then I’m not alone. But you might be interested to know that more than 15 million people apparently not only have heard of him but have also subscribed to his YouTube channel. Those subscribers may have seen a YouTube video from him the other day titled, “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…” and featured footage that apparently contained a shot (filmed from a distance) of a human being hanging from a rope in the forest.

The Verge reports the video (which I’ve not seen) began with a “viewer discretion warning” and Paul speaking in a somber tone. He reportedly claimed he had not monetized the video with advertisements, then states, “This is the most real vlog I’ve ever posted on this channel.” Then, he warns, “With that said: buckle the f**k up, because you’re never gonna see a video like this again.”

The premise of the video, before the grisly discovery was made, was apparently that Paul and his friend were going to spend a night in the forest to look for ghosts. (Remember? Ghosts are the other thing the forest is known for.) That’s when the video then cut to footage of a body, which the gang approaches, shouting about it possibly being a joke.

The group apparently then filmed the corpse up close, blurring the man’s face but showing his hands and clothes. Paul then talks to his viewers:

“Suicide is not a joke. Depression and mental illnesses are not a joke. We came here with an intent to focus on the haunted aspect of the forest. This just became very real and, obviously, a lot of people are going through a lot of s**t in their lives … suicide is not the answer, guys. There are people who love you and care for you.”

On New Year’s Day, Paul deleted the video, which had been seen 6.5 million times by then. He then posted this apology to Twitter:

Despite the apology, which some have criticized, especially the part about it being the “first time” he’s ever handled his “power” incorrectly, some are calling for YouTube to terminate his account.

If I understand this correctly, Paul is worth some $14 million, which he’s apparently made directly or indirectly through his YouTube channel. You have to figure that YouTube has certainly taken a cut of that fortune.

YouTube is a business…and the chances of them canceling his account over one video are probably about the same chances that you might win the next Powerball jackpot.

If enough people had complained to the service about that particular video, there’s probably a decent chance that YouTube would, at most, have simply done what Paul himself did on Monday: deleted it.

It’s so much easier for people who object to Paul’s YouTube channel to simply not watch it. If everything he posts is this offensive, it might be one thing. But since it’s only now that he’s attracted so much attention among those of us who’d never heard of him, the majority of his content almost certainly couldn’t be this offensive or we’d have heard of him sooner.

The question, I think, comes down to whether you think someone should be allowed to post what they want on their own social media channels (provided, of course, that it doesn’t violate the social media platform’s own rules.

Whether you think Paul’s YouTube channel should be canceled is surely shaped by how you answer that question.

If you were YouTube, how would you react to the controversy?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.