Acid attacks, fake bombs and murders: the danger of extreme jokes on YouTube

Acid attacks, fake bombs and murders: the danger of extreme jokes on YouTube

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The YouTube channel of Arya Mosallah had more than 650,000 subscribers. But, with only 17 years old, his career as “youtuber” came to an end when he published a video entitled “Throwing water in people’s faces, PT 2”.

He recorded how he approached several people and, after a brief conversation, he threw a glass of water in his face .

Many of those who saw it thought that the British wanted to attract attention simulating acid attacks, since in the last two years there was an increase in London and other cities in the United Kingdom.

The video of Mosallah was criticized by several media, and also by victims, including Resham Khan, who suffered serious burns on his face after being targeted by these attacks.

Google’s video platform reacted by eliminating its channel . And also a second channel that he tried to open later.

“This account has been canceled due to serious or repeated violations of the YouTube policy related to the prohibition of content designed for harassment, intimidation or threats, ” reads now when trying to access the account.

As the “youtuber” told the BBC, his intention was not to refer to acid attacks. “I never mentioned anything about the acid in the video, the title or the comments, the media demonized me,” he said.

Arya Mosallah
Image caption The 17-year-old says that the media “demonized him”.

But Mosallah is by no means the first “youtuber” to get into trouble for videos with heavy jokes that are offensive.

His story, along with the controversy generated by Logan Paul – who caused outrage when filming the body of a suicide victim in Japan – has managed to draw attention to the most extreme content that is published on YouTube.

And although it seems that there are more and more this type of videos and more is talked about in the media, the phenomenon is not new.

Panic in the museum

The “vloggers” (video bloggers) have been filming false attacks with bombs and murders for some time and tricking friends and strangers to increase the number of visits on their pages and platforms.

In 2016, four young people linked to a YouTube channel called Trollstation were imprisoned for causing panic in two London museums .

The “youtubers” organized false thefts of works of art, causing fear among the people and the evacuation of the room.

The events occurred in July 2015 in the National Portrait Gallery and later in the Tate Britain, where in addition to simulating thefts, made a false kidnapping.

One of the group members told the BBC that his intention was never to break the law. However, they were found guilty of “threatening behavior causing fear or acts of illegitimate violence “.

Youtube joke in a museum in London.  Photo: Metropolitan Police of London.
Image captionDozens of people panicked at the National Portrait Gallery in London for a joke that went too far. (Photo: Metropolitan Police of London).

Attempt of murder and false bombs

In 2015, the British “youtuber” Sam Pepper published a video in which he simulated murdering another celebrity on the Internet in front of a friend who did not suspect anything.

There were many reactions against and Pepper later stated that the video was a performance and that the apparently traumatized friend had been part of the parody.

But perhaps the most popular extreme teaser on YouTube was the Russian Vitaly Zdorovetskiy , whose channel on the platform gained notoriety in 2012 after threatening to blow up a bomb near a stranger.

He was arrested for that and for many other jokes.

In 2015, Zdorovetskiy told the BBC that he may have exceeded the limits, but he did not say where those limits are for him.

“I’m not going to point someone with a gun and order him to give me his money, I would not do something illegal … maybe just a little bit .”

YouTube suspended advertising on its channel on Friday and said Paul exhibited “a pattern of behavior in his videos that makes his channel not only unsuitable for advertisers, but also potentially harmful to the entire community of creators .”

Logan Paul.  Photo: Youtube / Logan Paul.

Image captionLogan Paul caused outrage over a video that mocked suicide victims. Photo: Youtube / Logan Paul.

The question of whether jokes are to members of the public or to actors or friends of YouTube stars is fundamental.

Mosallah did not want to clarify to the BBC his vision on this aspect, but insinuated that his videos could have been staged “: I deserve that my channel is closed? And if it was only a short film? And if it was not real? “

“Break the barriers”

The BBC asked Judi James, a body language and behavior specialist, to analyze the videos in which Mosallah throws water at people. James says it looks like they were staged.

“Normally, there is a moment of shock, but in this case, the victims run away almost immediately, and one of the boys even leaves a large bag on the bench in a park, which is not very intuitive.

“I guess it can not be what it seems .”

“It’s probably the most sadistic form of comedy, every day we’re bombarded with more images of colliding cars and terrible events and even people dying in. Once you start breaking the barriers, then the idea of doing that comedy, which is pretty sadistic , it even becomes attractive. “

But the expert also said that the success of these videos has to do with what it means to feel joy for the suffering of the other, “practically you laugh for the relief of knowing that it is not you”.

“On the other hand, the pranksters themselves can suffer the consequences of their jokes, ” he said.

That seems to be the case of one of the members of Trollstation.

“I did not like it,” he explained about the assault prank at the National Portrait Gallery in London, an event that took him to prison. “It was not a pleasant feeling to realize that all those people were scared, I was not going over that.”

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