Social media

Anger in Japan as American YouTube star Logan Paul makes second apology for posting hanging video from notorious ‘suicide forest’

Angry comments flooded Twitter after Paul, who gained notoriety on social media and has a popular video blog or ‘vlog’, apologised for the footage of suicide victim

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, 2:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, 10:03pm

Japanese social media reacted with a storm of outrage to a video by YouTube star Logan Paul showing a suicide victim in a forest near Mount Fuji, as anger spread over the now-deleted video on Wednesday.

Angry comments flooded Twitter after Paul, who gained notoriety on social media and has a popular video blog or “vlog”, apologised for the footage, which was reportedly viewed six million times.

The video shows Paul discovering a body in Aokigahara, a dense woodland at the foot of Mount Fuji known as “the Japanese Suicide Forest”, in a country that has long struggled with some of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.

As news of the video and apology was reported in Japan Wednesday, social media erupted with indignation over the film, which showed a man who had hanged himself.

“It is insane to show to the world the body of someone who died after being depressed. Shame on you,” said one Twitter user @j_rivoluzione.

Others objected to Paul’s appearance in a novelty hat, while outtakes showing the US internet celebrity laughing and joking about the incident also stirred anger.

“It’s good to raise awareness but you can do it without filming a person who committed suicide,” @spiffymiffy1 said.

“It looks like he did it for self-satisfaction. Suicide and depression are serious issues. There’s nothing funny about them.”

In his first apology, Paul said he had posted the video in a mistaken effort to draw attention to the problem of depression and suicide.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the moment without fully weighing the possible ramifications,” he said in his statement.

The bloggers’s fan group, also known as the “Logang”, meanwhile took to the star’s Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channels to defend Paul or offer support.

In a second apology to his YouTube and Twitter accounts, Paul implored his followers to stop defending him.

“For my fans who are defending my actions, please don’t,” Paul said.

“They do not deserve to be defended.”

But the damage had been done.

Paul’s credibility had nosedived and more talk is not the recommended route for damage control, said branding expert Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, who advises celebrities, executives and media.

Paul should instead “show through action,” volunteering his time and money to suicide prevention groups, Schiffer said.

“From a branding perspective, he is going to pay a big price,” he said.

“This is going down as a big giant mistake and shake the soul of many digital influencers like him that will have to think very carefully as to what they put out to the public before they go ahead and push upload.”

Similar to other internet celebrities, Paul’s fan base is young and devoted. First rising to fame on the now-closed social media platform Vine, the YouTuber has over 15 million subscribers on YouTube, over 16 million followers on Instagram and over 3.9 million followers on Twitter.

Paul has been featured on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show, filmed promotions for the Baywatch movie with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and has worked with brands such as Dunkin Donuts and Verizon to post ads for their products on his social pages.

The apology video was ranked number one on YouTube’s trending videos page for much of the day Tuesday, accumulating more than 5.1 million views on the platform in a matter of hours and over 3.77 million views on Twitter in the less than five hours since it was posted there.

There were 375,000 comments on the apology video posted to YouTube, and 23,000 on the Twitter apology.

Actress Anna Akana was among many in the US and elsewhere to hit out at Paul.

“When my brother found my sister’s body, he screamed with horror & confusion & grief & tried to save her,” she tweeted.

“You do not walk into a suicide forest with a camera and claim mental health awareness.”

Japan has the highest suicide rate of any Group of Seven industrialised nation, with more than 20,000 people taking their own lives each year.

Aokigahara, located 100 kilometres west of Tokyo, has become such a well-known place for desperate people to kill themselves that authorities have put up signs among the trees urging people with self destructive thoughts to contact a suicide prevention group.

“Life is a precious thing … Think again about your parents, siblings and children,” the signs say.

Suicides in Japan have fallen since their peak of 34,427 in 2003, with 21,897 taking their own lives in 2016.

Google-owned YouTube indicated the video was removed because it violated the video-sharing platform’s terms of service.

“Our hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video,” a Google statement said.

The statement added that YouTube prohibits “violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner” and that such content is allowed only “when supported by appropriate educational or documentary information.”

Agence France-Presse, Tribune News Service, Associated Press