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Logan Paul: How a Vine Sensation Became YouTube’s Latest Headache

Here's what this internet influencer's controversial but continued career says about the video-sharing platform and its policies.

Logan Paul arrives at Jingle Ball at The Forum, in Inglewood, Calif2017 Jingle Ball - Los Angeles - Arrivals, Inglewood, USA - 01 Dec 2017

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

In a 2015 interview with Business Insider, then-rising Vine star and vlogger Logan Paul said that he wanted to be “the biggest entertainer in the world.”

“That’s my deal,” he said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get that.”

Two years later, he was making international headlines, though probably not how he had imagined. While in Japan recording his “Adventures in Tokyo” vlogs, Paul and his friends found the body of a man who had committed suicide in the Aokigahara forest. He uploaded the video to his YouTube channel. At the time, he had 15 million subscribers.

A day and over 6 million views later, the video was taken down and Paul became a pariah on social media, accused of trivializing suicide for web traffic as many demanded that YouTube take action and suspend his channel. Instead, the platform removed Paul from their Preferred Partners and YouTube Red programs. Most recently, his channel was stripped of all advertising privileges when he uploaded a video of him tasing dead rats, following a hiatus from vlogging.

Despite YouTube finally demonetizing his videos (even with a temporary hold, statistics site SocialBlade reports that Paul stands to lose anywhere between $48,000 to $700,00 a month), Paul’s influence over and contribution to its business has created a conversation on how the platform fails to regulate content and creators in a timely manner, despite increasing audience size.

IndieWire documented where the slow rise and increasingly messy decline of Logan Paul’s career connected with YouTube’s growth and continued controversies as a platform. We will update as needed.

May 2007
YouTube launches its Partner Program

Following the increasing popularity of original content creators on the platform, YouTube now gave channels the opportunity to partner with them. A partnered channel had “engaging videos,” content that was “attractive” to advertisers, and the ability to control the monetization of its videos. Within a year, The New York Times reported that some of these partners were already earning six-income figures.

October 2011
YouTube announces original channels

The platform began to pay creators to make content exclusively for YouTube, comparing itself to “cable television” with its new accessibility in an official blog statement.

August 2013
PewDiePie becomes the most subscribed channel on YouTube

The Swedish gamer, real name Felix Kjellberg, becomes YouTube’s top channel at age 23. Known for his goofy, over-the-top, and sometimes offensive gameplay, he eventually gets over 60 million subscribers and becomes the biggest source of revenue for the site.

March 2013
Logan Paul uploads his first video to Vine

His videos on the now-discontinued app usually included stunts, jokes, and pranks. By the time Vine is shut down, he has over 9 million followers.

October 2013
“TheOfficialLoganPaul” channel starts on YouTube

Paul’s channel features comedy sketches, original music videos and promotional videos for his YouTube Red content. As of 2018, the channel now has over 4 million subscribers.

August 2015
“Logan Paul Vlogs” channel starts on YouTube

Paul uploads daily vlogs about his life to an audience of now 16 million subscribers. His uploads were consistent until January 2018.

October 2015
YouTube introduces YouTube Red

A paid subscription service that offers members original YouTube shows and movies, YouTube Red only involves known creators like PewdiePie in its original content expansion.

October 2016
Paul stars in YouTube Red original content

The vlogger gets involved with YouTube Red and stars in the ongoing web series “Foursome” as well as the film “The Thinning.” He continues to star in the second and third seasons of the series. Plans are made for a “The Thinning” sequel.

February 2017
PewDiePie pulled from YouTube Red, Google Preferred

Following a series of anti-Semitic videos, Pewdiepie is removed from Google Preferred, YouTube’s advertising program for selling “brand-safe” content on YouTube. The program offers advertisers access to the top channels on the site. His reality show “Scare PewDiePie” is also canceled. It takes a month for this to happen. This is the first instance that brings the platform’s hands-off approach with its content creators to light.

September 2017
PewDiePie uses racial slur on livestream

Pewdiepie uses the N-word in a livestream broadcast. Although he quickly released an apology video, many took to social media to demand that YouTube delete his channel. There’s no indication of the company ever making a formal statement about the incident.

November 22, 2017
YouTube addresses poor family-friendly filters

After a series of graphic videos are found to be in the YouTube Kids section, the platform issues an official blog statement promising a “tougher application” of community guidelines and “faster enforcement” of channel termination.

November 23, 2017
“No Handlebars” video controversy

Hip-hop group Flobots call Logan Paul out on Twitter after he makes a video rewriting their song “Handlebars.” Playing off their line “I can ride my bike with no handlebars,” Paul instead says that he can “ride your girl with no handlebars.” He even sits on a woman and uses her as a bicycle. Flobots encouraged fans looking to parody their music to not “indulge in rampant misogyny.” Paul did not address the comments.

December 4, 2017
YouTube promises to apply stricter criteria to videos

YouTube issues another blog statement, this time addressing the “violent and extremist” content on the site. They say they will start “carefully considering” which channels and videos are available for advertising and that they’ll apply “stricter criteria” to ensure that community guidelines are met.

December 2017
Japan’s Aokigahara forest vlog

While recording in Japan, Paul and his friends stumble across the body of a suicide victim. Paul records and zooms in on the body and later uses it as the thumbnail for his YouTube upload. The video gets over 6 million views and becomes the site’s #1 Trending video.

January 1 – 3, 2018
Paul apologizes and YouTube comments

The video is taken down by Paul. He writes an apology post on Twitter and uploads an apology video to his YouTube account the next day. Both are met with mixed reception. In the video, Paul says that he “will be better.”

Meanwhile, YouTuber Philip DeFranco posts a statement he received from the company on his Twitter account in which the platform expresses sympathy for the family of the victim. They also say that they prohibit “violent or gory content.” The statement is met with widespread dissatisfaction on social media.

January 9, 2018
YouTube directly addresses the controversy

YouTube finally breaks its silence in an “open letter” thread on Twitter, saying that the video was in violation of YouTube’s community guidelines. They also state that they have “acted accordingly, and were looking at further consequences.” Many decry the platform for taking so long to address the issue and for not taking harsher action against Paul.

January 10, 2018
YouTube removes Paul from Google Preferred and YouTube Red

Paul, like PewDiePie, is removed from both the Google Preferred and the YouTube Red programs. Less than a week later, YouTube also announces the introduction of two new policies they intend to implement in mid-February, one that requires Google Preferred members to have their videos manually reviewed and another that raises the barrier of entry to become a Google Preferred member.

January 24, 2018
Paul returns to YouTube, pledges suicide awareness donations

After a three-week hiatus, Paul returns to YouTube with a seven-minute video titled “Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow.” In it, he attempts to raise suicide awareness. That same day, he pledges to donate $1 million to suicide prevention organizations. “It’s time to start a new chapter in my life as I continue to educate both myself and others on suicide,” he says in the video. It currently has over 28 million views and became YouTube’s #1 trending video when it was released.

February 9, 2018
YouTube suspends ads on Paul’s channel

Paul uploads a new video featuring him tasing dead rats and attempting to give CPR to a fish he pulled from a bowl. YouTube immediately suspends ads from his channel, preventing any income he would accrue from them and citing his recent behavior as “unsuitable for brands.”

February 13, 2018
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki says company will not ban Paul

At the Code Media Conference in California, the CEO announced that Paul would not be banned from the site because he had yet to violate its “three-strike” system. Paul has so far only received one strike, given for his Aokigahara video. According to community guidelines, an account will only be removed if the strikes are received in a three-month period. Wojcicki did not disclose if he had received a second for his most recent video. She was reported as saying, “We can’t just be pulling people off our platform…they need to violate a policy.”

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