In the world of social media stars and YouTube personalities, clicks are currency. But the same platforms that reward outrageous behavior and original ideas also can encourage rash, shocking and downright offensive behavior.
Many of YouTube’s more famous personalities have come up against controversy at some point in their rise to fame, but some have really shaken the internet to their core with their behavior. Some have even ended up being arrested for their antics.
Keep scrolling to read about some of the most scandalous moments in YouTube’s history.
Vine star turned YouTube personality Logan Paul became an internet pariah when he posted a video in December 2017 that showed the body of an alleged suicide victim in what is sometimes called Japan’s “Suicide Forest.”
“This is not clickbait. This is the most real vlog I’ve ever posted to this channel,” Paul said in the YouTube video, as previously reported. “I think this definitely marks a moment in YouTube history because I’m pretty sure this has never hopefully happened to anyone on YouTube ever. Now with that said: Buckle the f— up, because you’re never gonna see a video like this again!”
After the internet revolted against him over the insensitive video, Paul tweeted an apology and pledged to take a break from his YouTube channel.
Three weeks later, he released a video attempting to explain himself.
“I will never, ever forget who I am at my core and no one can make me think I’m something otherwise,” he said in the video. “And as long as I’m learning and improving and getting better as a person, then we good. … And even though I f—ed up — like, I’m an idiot — it doesn’t feel good to have millions of people telling you to go die.”
Paul also released a “Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow” PSA and pledged to donate $1 million to suicide prevention organizations.
Logan’s brother Jake Paul, also a YouTube star, drew controversy in 2017 when his wild stunts and parties turned his quiet West Hollywood neighborhood into a a “war zone,” neighbors told KTLA.
“We used to be a really nice, quiet street and now we’re just this, like, war zone,” neighbor Maytal Dahan told KTLA at the time. “We’re families here, and we’re more than happy to have them live here if they’re respectful of their neighbors — but they’re not.”
“I feel bad for them, for sure,” Paul said of his neighbors when KTLA interviewed him “There’s nothing we can do, though — the Jake Paulers are the strongest army out there,” referring to his social media followers.
During this time, Paul was let go from his Disney Channel show, Bizaardvark.
YouTube personality Dillion Burch caused a panic at a Disney World resort in Florida after falsely telling guests that there was an active shooter on the property.
After admitting he was staging a stunt for his channel, Burch was arrested and sentenced to three days in jail after pleading no contest in May 2018 to disorderly intoxication and disturbing the peace at a public lodging, WKMG reported.
British social media influencer Elle Darby faced off against Dublin hotel Charleville Lodge and its restaurant, The White Moose Café, after she asked to stay there for free for Valentine’s Day 2018 in exchange for promotional posts.
Café owner Paul Stenson responded to the influencer by posted her email (with her name redacted) on the restaurant’s Facebook. “It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity,” he wrote. He continued: “If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in?”
Darby then doubled down, claiming that Stenson’s redaction did not disguise her name well enough, and she was now dealing with “death threats and cancer wishes.”
“My issue was not with the idea that he had refused my stay. My issue was how he reacted,” she said in YouTube video. “A very simple way to have gone about it would have been a ‘no’ or for the email to be ignored instead of me having death threats and cancer wishes.”
Stenson appears not to have backed down at all, selling T-shirts at the restaurant mocking the feud.
PewDiePie, also known as Felix Kjellberg, is one of the most famous YouTubers of all time, but came under fire in 2017 when one of his videos featured two hired men holding a sign that read, “Death to all Jews.”
Many people clapped back at the video, calling it anti-Semitic, but Kjellberg defended posting it, saying in a video it was designed “to show how crazy the modern world is.”
Soon after the controversy broke, YouTube Red dropped the star, whose show was about to launch its second season on the platform. .
In what she claimed to be a YouTube stunt gone tragically wrong, then 19-year-old Monalisa Perez accidentally killed her boyfriend, 22-year-old Pedro Ruiz III in June 2017 when she shot him in the chest.
The two, while trying to build an online audience, attempted to film a stunt in which she shot at Ruiz’s chest while he held an encyclopedia.
In December 2017, Perez pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. She was sentenced to six months in jail in March 2018, reported the Star Tribune.
Kian Lawley’s acting career hit a major hitch after he was cast opposite Amanda Stenberg in the movie The Hate U Give, which is about a black teenage girl who becomes an activist after witnessing a white police officer shoot an unarmed friend. After the announcement was made, the star was cut from the project when a video of him saying racist things surfaced on YouTube.
Lawley apologized for his “mistakes” on Twitter. “If u don’t learn from ur mistakes, u can never grow as a person,” he wrote. “I’ve learned a lot & i am grateful to have the power to change. i never want to be who i was yesterday. we’re in a constant battle to become a better version of ourselves, use ur voice as ur weapon.”
The former Big Brother cast member found another shot at fame on YouTube, but has also found his fair share of controversy over the years.
In 2015, Pepper posted a video titled “Killing Best Friend Prank,” during which he, in a mask, faked kidnapping fellow social media stars Sam Golbach and Colby Brock, fake shooting Brock in front of his totally freaked out friend. Thousands of people called the hoax cruel, calling for its removal, but Golbach came to his friend’s defense in an interview with Metro, saying the message was “about living life to the full… not taking life for granted and loving it because it’s short.”
A year prior, Pepper’s “Fake Hand A— Pinch Prank,” during which he pinched seemingly unaware women on the butt after asking them for directions, caused several women to accuse him of sexual harassment. Pepper responded, saying the video was staged. “It goes without saying you can’t go around touching people’s bums without asking,” he said in a video.
Maryland parents Michael and Heather Martin’s YouTube channel, DaddyoFive, quickly landed them in serious legal trouble when their “prank” videos crossed the line from family fun to abusive.
The two would regularly post videos of them “pranking” their five children, destroying their belongings and yelling at them until they cried, until concerned viewers reported them to the authorities.
In September 2017, the two pleaded guilty to child neglect charges and were sentenced to five years probation each, reported Buzzfeed at the time.
As per the terms of their probation, the Martins were not to have contact with two of their children unless approved by a judge. They are prevented from filming their kids for social media.
Trevor Martin and Tom Cassell rose to fame online as TmarTn and Syndicate, promoting Counter Strike: Global Offensive and gambling on the game in their YouTube videos. But viewers eventually learned the duo actually owned CS:GO Lotto, a gambling site associated with the game that they had been promoting.
Cassell apologized on Twitter, but Martin doubled down in a 2016 video. “I created the site. I wanted to build something awesome for other people to enjoy and I played on it,” he said.
He added: “Obviously, on my end, me playing on Lotto rather than other sites gives me an advantage because it promotes my own site, but it is not immoral, there is nothing wrong with it. I am 100 percent honest.”
Photo credit: Instagram/Logan Paul