This evening, a reader of my blog post from earlier this year (“YouTube’s Dangerous and Sickening Cesspool of ‘Prank’ and ‘Dare’ Videos” – https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/05/04/youtubes-dangerous-and-sickening-cesspool-of-prank-and-dare-videos), asked if I knew about YouTube’s “laxative” prank and dare videos. Mercifully, I didn’t know about them. Unfortunately, now I do. And while it’s all too easy to plow the fields of toilet humor when it comes to topics like this, it’s really not at all a funny subject.
In fact, it can be deadly.
Some months back I had heard about a boy who — on a dare — ate 25 laxative brownies in one hour. The result was near total heart and kidney failure. He survived, but just barely.
What I didn’t realize until today is that this was far from an isolated incident, and that there is a stunningly vast corpus of YouTube videos explicitly encouraging such dares — and even worse, subjecting innocent victims to “pranks” along very much the same lines.
Once I began to look into this category, I was shocked by its sheer scope. For example, a YouTube search for:
currently yields me 132,000 results. Of those, over 2,000 were uploaded in the last month, over 300 in the last week, and 10 just today!
As usual, it’s difficult to know what percentage of these are fakes and which are real. But this really matters not, because virtually all of them have the effect of encouraging impressionable viewers into duplicating their disgusting and dangerous feats.
Many of these YouTube videos are very professionally and slickly produced, and often are on YouTube channels with very high subscriber counts. It also appears common for these channels to specialize in producing a virtually endless array of other similar videos in an obvious effort to generate a continuing income stream — which of course is shared with Google itself.
Is there any possible ethical justification for these videos being hosted by Google, and in many cases also being directly monetized?
No, there is not.
And this is but the tip of the iceberg.
YouTube is saturated with an enormous range of similarly disgusting and often dangerous rot, and the fact that Google continues to host this material provides a key continuing incentive for ever larger quantities of such content to be produced, making Google directly culpable in its spread.
I spent enough time consulting internally with Google to realize that there are indeed many situations where making value judgments regarding YouTube content can be extremely difficult, to say the least.
But many of these prank and dare videos aren’t close calls at all — they are outright dangerous and yes, potentially deadly. And as we’ve seen they are typically extremely easy to find.
The longer that these categories are permitted to fester on YouTube, the greater the risks to Google of ham-fisted government regulatory actions that frankly are likely to do more harm than good.
Google can do so much better than this.