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Logan Paul and the murky standards of YouTube’s community guidelines

Logan Paul and PewDiePie’s controversial videos reflect YouTube’s crisis on content moderation.

Logan Paul Vlogs/YouTube.

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(UPDATED Jan. 12, 2 p.m.) Merely days into 2018, the Internet already found a new target for its outrage—and rightfully so.

YouTube star Logan Paul had his name all over headlines for the past few days due to a video about his trip to Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji (which he had confused with Fiji), notorious for its reputation among locals and tourists as Japan’s “suicide forest.”

In the since-deleted video, unsubtly titled We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…, Paul and his friends found a body of a suicide victim hanging from a tree just a few kilometers into Aokigahara; however, instead of respectfully turning his camera off (or even cutting the footage from the final video), Paul continued filming, even repeatedly zooming in on the corpse’s face.

“This was supposed to be a fun vlog,” he said, before making fun of the victim while wearing a cartoonish green headwarmer. The group laughed and cracked jokes beside the body.

Paul might have thought the whole ordeal was funny; after all, he amassed a following of nearly 20 million (and mostly young) subscribers for performing challenges, stunts, and pranks wrapped in his brand of rowdy shock humor, and the controversial video was supposed to be a part of his Tokyo Adventures series, where the 22-year-old vlogger obviously staged various pranks.

In the following video, Paul and his friends ran around Tokyo as they yelled at strangers and walked in the middle of the metropolis carrying a dead fish and an octopus tentacle.

 

 

In another, Paul engaged in downright cultural appropriation and disrespect (a fact he actually acknowledged during the video) by wearing traditional garbs and even going as far as washing his hands with holy water in a temple. The group was later kicked out of the temple, and their Japanese tour guide could be seen apologizing to authorities on their behalf.

 

 

These videos are still up on Paul’s channel. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old deleted the graphic video less than 24 hours after it was uploaded as outrage began pouring in from the YouTube community and the general public—but not before it was viewed 6.3 million times, even earning the 10th spot in YouTube’s trending list.

In a lengthy apology posted on his Twitter account, Paul said that he “didn’t do it for views” and that his intention was”to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention” (the controversial video was not monetized).

However, his efforts to “raise awareness” by including suicide prevention hotlines and disclaimers in the video were slammed by various netizens, YouTubers, and personalities as hypocritical at best and self-praising at worst, considering how Japan seriously deals with cultural norms and its high suicide rate.

Nonetheless, Paul’s video is not the first YouTuber to face outrage on the platform for producing content that explicitly violated community guidelines.

His rival, Felix Kjellberg, more popularly known as PewDiePie, also faced similar backlash February last year for paying two Indian freelancers to dance while holding a banner that read “Death to all Jews”—a clear violation of YouTube’s guidelines on hateful content.


Is YouTube slowly losing its grasp on the content being uploaded to the platform or are they no longer firm in safeguarding their audience?


Kjellberg retorted in an apology letter on Tumblr saying that the stunt was simply a joke overblown by the media and that it was only meant to show “how crazy the modern world is.” However, a report by The Wall Street Journal noted that anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery and references were present in at least nine of his videos since August 2016; neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist sites such as The Daily Stormer were already praising Kjellberg for his use of Nazi imagery, despite some of his followers defending his jokes as mere “satire.”

Both Paul and Kjellberg share almost the same brand of shock-inducing, absurdist humor masked as satire, which has become an increasingly ubiquitous part of YouTuber culture. While both of them faced consequences such as termination of partnerships and the removal of their channels from YouTube’s preferred-advertising service, it is safe to say that these controversies will only become mere blunders in their careers: Kjellberg continues to have a strong following, and Paul’s subscriber count had only increased by 600,000 in the past week.

Various users, during the time the video was still up, flagged the video as it obviously violated YouTube’s community standards and guidelines on violent and graphic content, which explicitly says “it’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful.”

A spokesperson from YouTube confirmed the violation but did not comment on whether Paul’s channel was given a strike or if they have manually reviewed the video (as of press time, Paul’s channel was already given one); other users who reposted Paul’s video in their own channels, however, were given strikes—and according to YouTube’s policies, channels that receive three strikes within three months are removed from the platform.

While Paul has subsequently apologized again in a video, YouTube has seemingly addressed the backlash through a Twitter thread last Jan. 10, saying that they were taking steps “to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.” They did not, however, disclose the specific steps they would take.

However, it is now necessary to ask why the Internet’s leading video sharing platform allows content that violates its own guidelines to stay and proliferate within the platform. Is YouTube slowly losing its grasp on the content being uploaded to the platform or are they no longer firm in safeguarding their audience? On both questions, perhaps not—and, if anything, YouTube is very much as culpable as its creators.

It is important to note that while the video was repeatedly reported to YouTube, it was Paul who took it down eventually—not moderators. Furthermore, according to a member of YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program, the video was manually reviewed and moderators decided that it should remain on the platform—even without an age restriction.

Even Kjellberg’s video remained accessible during the height of the controversy according to a report by Time Magazine, despite initial reports that the video was already removed (it is now unavailable).

These controversies highlight YouTube’s long-running crisis on content moderation, on how it moderates and censors the content of its top creators (if YouTube actually does), and on how it plays favorites and double standards, and how the platform tacitly encourages the production of provocative, offensive, or extremist content that would surely garner millions of views—and these views would inevitably translate to advertising revenue.


… if anything, YouTube is very much as culpable as its creators.


For one, Kjellberg’s Nazi references staying under the radar for so long only goes to show how YouTube is willing to bend its own rules for creators that get millions of views and make profit for the platform. A piece from The New York Times puts it plainly: “The YouTube platform plainly incentivizes such attention-grabbing behavior.”

The piece also considered how YouTube “is considerably and deliberately less hands-on with its talents” and YouTube might be more than willing to use this to wash their hands from any responsibility; however, Paul is a high-profile collaborator. He is set to star in a film produced by YouTube’s premium tier, YouTube Red, much like how Kjellberg starred in the tier’s Scare PewDiePie series before its second season was cancelled following Kjellberg’s controversy.

While YouTube has put its collaborations with Paul on hold, his Tokyo Adventures videos are still reportedly making as much as 90,000 dollars from views, according to analysts, in stark contrast to how YouTube responded to Kjellberg and other creators—and it all comes down to advertisers.

Last year, advertisers threatened to boycott YouTube as they discovered that their advertisements ran in videos “promoting terrorism and anti-Semitism,” according to a report from TechCrunch. YouTube began demonetizing videos—including innocent channels—in what became known as the first “adpocalypse,” and these continued following the discovery of inappropriate content running in YouTube’s standalone children-oriented app, YouTube Kids, by taking advantage of the platform’s algorithms.

In order to combat the loopholes in its algorithms, YouTube announced just last month that it would hire 10,000 human moderators to police content, punish creators that violate guidelines, and make sure that advertisements run alongside content that advertisers deem appropriate for their brands.

The platform now seemed ready to come clean—but Paul’s controversial video showed that YouTube is still not ready after all.

Perhaps, unlike neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, advertisers do not care about Paul’s insensitive mistake on making fun of suicide, he even allegedly monetized his own apology video (the controversial video was not), and there are no threats from advertisers to boycott the platform.

Ironically (or perhaps not), even Kjellberg called Paul a “jackass” and “a straight-up sociopath,” with the video “[encompassing] everything wrong with YouTube, the clickbait, the sensationalism”—and he is not entirely wrong: If anything, Kjellberg only echoed what other YouTubers have been saying all along (it is also important to note that Kjellberg does not want Paul’s channel to be taken down.

If YouTube cannot violate the editorial independence of its content creators, then this leaves the public to pressure YouTube to revise or clarify its community guidelines, uphold policies and strengthen their enforcement, and give more transparency in handling reports and complaints.

However, its complex ecosystem of algorithms, moderators, and corporate interests—and how they exactly work to enforce community guidelines despite their inherent contradictions—is still up for debate.

Nonetheless, the call still stands: YouTube needs to let go of its profitability for once and own up for its complicity in the mistakes of its creators—and, of course, punish them accordingly.

by Antoine Kyle Balo


EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been updated to reflect YouTube’s responses and actions regarding the controversy.

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On Octobers, we wear red

A day before the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released the supposed list of schools which are allegedly recruiting grounds of communists rebels for the “Red October” ouster plot against the regime, we were already protesting along Dapitan denouncing it.

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Artwork by Mikhail Reaño

A day before the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released the supposed list of schools which are allegedly recruiting grounds of communists rebels for the “Red October” ouster plot against the regime, we were already protesting along Dapitan denouncing it.

We knew very well at that point that the University would be tagged: after all, UST had welcomed the Lumad bakwit school into the campus—the Lumad schools that AFP considers to be training grounds of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), the schools that have experienced harassment and abuses from the military. The student activist movement in the University also saw a boom in recent months, and the University itself had become more outspoken against state violence and human rights violations under the regime of Rodrigo Duterte.

When AFP released their supposed “list” of schools yesterday, the condemnation from the administration and the Central Student Council was swift—and rightfully so. It is irresponsible and dangerous, a blatant attack on academic freedom and the rights of students to free expression and organization. The list put the security of the University at risk, particularly student leaders and those involved in the martial law week campaigns, which the AFP said was how communists recruited students.

However, it is not enough for us to condemn that one incident: the past few weeks saw the regime relentlessly (or desperately?) tag protests and opposition groups as part of a supposed communist-led “Red October” ouster plot, from the mass mobilization  at Luneta last Sept. 21 to leaders of the political opposition—a not-so-subtle attempt to silence and scare dissenters by tagging dissent as “terrorism” or “rebellion,” regardless of political color affiliation.

If the list has a target, it’s definitely not the University administration, as AFP pointed out themselves. The AFP is tagging groups that are at the forefront of political struggle under Duterte: striking workers calling for an end to contractualization and abusive labor practices, urban poor groups demanding decent housing, Lumad students and teachers calling for an end to military attacks in their schools and communities—and now, the military is targeting students leaders and student activists for their alleged connections to the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

This a serious allegation, and the University must actively continue to campaign against it. Such accusations have dire, even deadly implications and consequences as it puts the lives of students and their security at risk—a brazen example of red-baiting or red-tagging, in which state actors “publicly and detractively classify government-critical individuals and organisations as state enemies, communist terrorists or members of communist front organisations.”

The consequences are fatal, and it spares none—not even students activists like Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who were illegally abducted, detained and tortured at the hands of military forces in 2006 after they were accused of being members of the CPP-NPA. The AFP is putting the security and lives of students at risk simply because of their affiliations or even for simply being critical of the regime.

No different to how the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos arrested his opponents on the basis of being “communists,” “rebels” and “subversives,” Duterte is using the same cheap tricks from his idol’s playbook.

The AFP might say that this article is part of the CPP-NPA’s information drives linking martial law atrocities to those committed under the Duterte administration—but then again, communist or not, where is the lie? Nothing can cover up the fact Duterte is a cheap, fascist dictator wannabe who’s now using McCarthy-style red scares against his opponents who are out to supposedly “destabilize” Duterte’s regime, a regime that was never stable to begin with.

By doing so, the President is simply orchestrating his own downfall by giving his attention to a fabricated and poorly-concocted fake news of an ouster plot while turning a blind eye to the plight of the people—just like what he did to Sheila Eballe who simply asked the President to put an end to quarrying in Naga City, Cebu after a landslide.

Duterte’s response? A misogynistic remark and a claim that Eballe was being trained by NPA.

In the face of the crisis of rising prices of rice, bread, and other basic commodities brought by inflation and higher taxes, this “destabilization” is Duterte’s own doing—and if our memories serve us right, he was the one who repeatedly told the public that he is a murderer, and he even threatened to bomb Lumad schools and shoot female rebels in their vaginas.

Duterte is this country’s top terrorist, along with his lapdogs in the military and police force. Expect an intensified crackdown on activists and dissent this October, but we will not be scared into silence—they are only forcing more and more people to join the growing resistance to Duterte’s murderous regime. State violence breeds militant resistance, and fascist dictators only build their downfall.

Now is the time to fight, and to fight a madman like Duterte is just. After all, it’s no secret that the people already want him out—and it’s not because of any conspiracy for an ouster plot. It’s Duterte’s own fault.

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The Greatest Siomai: The Battle of Siomai around UST

No matter how siomai-ny choices we have, it will never be enough. Today, the competition amongst every siomai stall around UST has definitely gotten harder — with each of them vying to be the best among the rest.

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siomai poster
Artwork by Jessica Lopez.

Ang Tomasinong gipit, sa siomai kumakapit!” This line has had reverberated through the minds of almost every Thomasians even up to date. However, had they chosen siomai as their meal solely for its cheap price alone?

Through the years, siomai has emerged as one of the staple foods that many Thomasians enjoy. From the options of having a pork, beef, or shrimp-based mince, up to the way it is cooked, whether fried or steamed — siomai has already become an acceptable rice meal wherein one’s starving appetite can certainly be satisfied.

Today, the competition amongst every siomai stall around UST has definitely gotten harder — with each of them vying to be the best among the rest. And in identifying which of these stalls serves the finest pieces of siomai in town, TomasinoWeb explored the streets of España, Padre Noval, Dapitan, and Lacson.

angkong

Angkong Dimsum House

Delos Reyes Street cor. Padre Noval Street | Asturias Street, Dapitan

Angkong’s fried dumpling, at times, may have been labelled as “mainstream.” Nonetheless, this siomai place has continuously proved that they were not labelled as one for nothing. Its highly acclaimed ‘fried dumpling’ has been loved by most Thomasian for its crispness in every bite. For only P55.00, one can enjoy four delectable dumplings and a cup of rice. With two stores located at Dapitan and P.Noval,satiate your dumpling cravings anytime, anywhere. However, only a few can enjoy the “dine in”  experience since the place is a bit small. Despite the limited space that it offers, Angkong has never failed in embedding its love and sapid flavors in every piece of siomai that they serve.

Recommendations:

  • Quail Egg Siomai w/ rice (Php 55)
  • Japanese Siomai w/ rice (Php 60)

 

dimsum treats

Dimsum Treats

Besides “Starbucks”, Pacific Suites, Dapitan Street

Every Thomasian knows that what lies within the bustling streets of Dapitan is the long time rival of Angkong — that is Dimsum treats. At a price of only Php 55.00, students can feast on four huge pieces of siomai and a generous amount of rice. Although some of the siomai that they offer may at times be bland in taste, Dimsum Treats offers some array of sauces which will surely make ones meal more exciting. This siomai outlet offers a sweet and sour sauce as well as a hearty serving of Yang Chow ricemaking it a perfect meal combination for a hungry tummy.

Recommendations:

  • Chinese Chicken Siomai (Php 40)
  • Meaty Mushroom Siomai (Php 40)
  • Pork & Quail Egg Siomai (Php 40)
  • Japanese Dumpling (Php 40)

 

d sons dimsum

D’Sons Dimsum

Stall near 7/11, Padre Noval Street

Standing only steps away from the gates of UST, along P. Noval Street, is D’Sons Dimsum. Even with just a small stall, D’Sons has still caught the attention and tastes of many Thomasians through offering wide varieties of siomai. The siomai that they are offering is jam-packed with luscious meat partnered with sweet and sour soy sauce, which is far different in comparison with the other siomai houses. To make it more meal-worthy, one can also incorporate it with rice, and surely it would be the best combo one can have either as lunch, snack or even dinner meal.

Recommendations:

  • Pork (Steamed) Siomai (Php 28)
  • Fried Siomai (Php 28)

*Additional Php 10 for a cup of rice.

 

chi authentic dimsum

Chi: Authentic Dimsum House

Third floor of The One Torre De Santo Tomas, España Boulevard

In terms of variety, Chi: Authentic Dimsum House has, by far, topped all the other siomai stalls. Their gigantic “mega siomai”, wrapped in yellow wonton, definitely is one of the students’ favorite for it incorporates a savory mix of its minced pork and several other spices. In addition, this dimsum house has as well brought in to its menu ‘Kuchay Siomai’ — a must try for vegetable lovers! Although Chi offers one of the most expensive pieces of siomai, the different twists and varieties that they bring to the siomai community is still admirable.

Recommendations:

  • Mega Siomai (Php 50)
  • Kuchay (Vegetable) Siomai (Php 50)
  • Sharksfin Dumpling (Php 30)

*Additional Php 10 for a cup of rice.

 

siomai king

Siomai King

Barlin cor. Padre Noval Street

In this stall, one can feel that siomai truly is king for the sumptuous amount of servings that they offer. Unlike other stores, ‘Siomai King’ serves a total of 5 appetizing pieces of siomai for only 30 pesos. Known as the stall’s bestseller is its HongKong Siomai — a delicate mix of ground pork and shrimp with a dash of minced flavourings. Aside from that, the zestiness coming from the chilli-garlic is what sets ‘Siomai King’ apart from others.

Recommendations:

  • HongKong Siomai (Php 30)
  • Shanghai Siomai (Php 30)

*Additional Php 10 for a cup of rice.

Regardless of the diversifying flavors and varieties that each siomai stall offer, what they bring to us comes with only one goal — to satisfy our hunger and taste buds without expending too much money for a palatable meal.

Karl Efraim Duldao and Sheena Joy Emnace

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The Rise of Filipino Mythology

Our generation has always been curious about the great Greek myths with its fascinating – but rather dark tales. But have you ever discovered the hidden gems within the Philippine Lore?

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rise of filipino mythology artwork
Artwork by Mikhail Reaño

Our generation has always been curious about the great Greek myths with its fascinating – but rather dark tales. Persephone’s abduction by Hades, god of the underworld or Zeus’ escapades with fair maidens that lead to the birth of tons of demigods with exceptional strength like Hercules or intoxicating beauty like Helen of Troy.

Each country has their own share of myths. Scandinavians have their god of Thunder Thor, and the mischievous god and trickster, Loki. We are not talking about the MCU here obviously. Romans have a very similar adaptation of their myth to the Greeks and Egyptians have alien-looking gods and goddesses, these are only a few of what we actually know about.

We are all familiar with Bathala, but we always ignore the fact that our country is also rich in tales and myths. We also have a whole new lineage of deities, monsters, and other unearthly creatures. Ours is as fascinating as other myths if not, more.

Even Neil Gaiman, the author of Norse Mythology and American Gods, acknowledged the potential of Filipino Mythology to be shown to the world. Yet despite possessing the prowess to tell a story masterfully, he emphasized that the Filipino writers should be the one to retell the myth.

Mythology as our identity.

Each race has its own unique identity and mannerism. Though most of it are due to their own prejudice, these traits still set them aside from the others.

Here in the Philippines, our history, long before the Spaniards set foot on our shores, have always been different. Only our natives were able to recall the stories that were passed upon generations.

Have you read about Maria Makiling during your childhood? If yes, surely, you also know about Mt. Makiling being shaped like a woman which is believed to be Maria Makiling herself. The known fable can be the basis of our history or the other way around. The best way to know a culture is to understand it through their own as myths and stories.

There are enough characters for everyone to look into.

One of the many reasons why Philippine Mythology should be known is because of its variety. Due to the fact that our country is divided into different regions, a wide variety of culture and language is established. In the Tagalog region, the supreme being is called Bathala but Kaptan for the Bisaya.

These two characters are basically the same but they have different names and maybe even a slight alteration in their stories. There is a wide range of origin stories which involves giants, gods, and goddesses, but the best part about it is they all have different tales to tell.

Filipino writers are capable

Filipinos have always been one of those who excel in everything they pour their souls into. There are a lot of Filipino literary creators who are exceptional in their work. Who else will be good at retelling our own history? Of course, those who share the same blood lineage, for we know the hearts and minds of our ancestors.

We have a rich literary library that some foreigners also seek to come across with to further their knowledge. Filipino writers were able to establish their skills in the field of literature, though they are not given enough appreciation in our current setting.

Mythology is not just a part of literature that is there to entertain us. It also has a key role in civilization. Humans interpret their world through myths, it has always been a representation of one’s beliefs. If you can take time to gush about the Asgardians or the Olympians, why not start discovering our very own today?

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