Like most virtual media, YouTube is the forte of the young. As a content-led platform, power and media is truly in the hands of the creators. The only problem is that these creators are a bunch of ignorant teens who shot to fame and wealth with the website’s instant success. These teens are not confronted by any tangible rules yet are given a platform to appeal to millions of people with whatever message they want. No wonder they’ve caused a few scandals.
With seemingly limitless wealth and popularity, these kids have never had to grow up. They’re living their Peter Pan fantasy, unchecked by authority or their audiences. And so they make mistakes, they push the boundaries, they break a few rules. Kids will be kids, right? The thing is, most kids make mistakes in the confines of their immediate environment. They might piss off their parents, their friends, their family – hell, even their entire school if they’re really trying. But that’s it; minimal and restricted damage.
Most kids are not virally famous, racking up millions of views each day. They don’t make millions by the time they are 19, nor do they have huge influence over hordes of people. They don’t have power over mainstream culture in such a way that they can make damaging and misguided messages viral content before they can be regulated and deleted.
YouTube is like letting a toddler run rampant with a marker pen in a corridor. The young entered it first and they retain the creative control still. It has allowed young people the creative freedom and ability to shape their future and achieve in a way that has often been impossible with the more traditional, hierarchical media platforms. YouTube is content-led and thus, in theory, not governed by nepotism, classism, or elitism, but the futures of many of the brightest stars now are. They are rich, they are powerful, and they are unregulated.
There have been countless examples of the danger of this dynamic. Perhaps the most disgusting was the now infamous Logan Paul video, where he filmed and mocked a dead body in Japan’s ‘suicide forest’. Paul has a huge audience, the majority of which are young and easily-influenced. The video went viral before the outrage began and YouTube eventually took action and pulled the video down.
The damage had already been done. Paul had made clear to millions that suicide was trivial, laughable, and derisive. And worse, Paul monetised his apology video, if he wasn’t scumbag enough.
Alfie Deyes – aka PointlessBlog – also caused controversy with a similarly distasteful, if not as serious, video. Challenging himself to only spend £1 a day on food whilst being a millionaire, living in massive mansion, and owning multiple cars and his own forest, was disrespectful and misguided. It showed his total ineptitude to evaluate his own privilege and experience, and his portrayal of his own wealth. Many people have little to no money to live on, or to specifically spend on food.
His huge platform, millions strong, could have been used to raise awareness for charity issues yet Deyes instead made trivial an issue that to some people is literally a matter of life and death. Deyes not only lived up to his handle with this pointless video, he also proved that the YouTube generation are immature, privileged fools with no real grasp on the outside world. The problem is the platform.
Content-led is great, but only if it is regulated. The plethora of scandals arising on the platform that are inextricably linked to the young stars Youtube enables demonstrates the need for some jurisdiction over content and messages. TV and online news platforms undergo this. With Youtube surpassing these traditional platforms, the need for real rules, rather than agency-led and creator-governed content, is essential.