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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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Excelsior! The true hero who does not need to wear a cape

Stan Lee may not have been able to fly or lift buildings, but he was blessed with the superpower to make us believe that we can be our own heroes.

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stan lee art
Artwork by Kaye Iral

A LEGEND IS BORN.

To stan something is “[to look up to it] and that you genuinely watch or truly love their content”, according to Urban Dictionary. In line with this colloquialism, as fans of comic book readers and movie-goers alike, it would not be far off to say that we all stan Stan Lee and the tremendous impact his creation has made to our culture today.

This article offers a tribute to a very strong contemporary legend, to who we can credit decades of entertainment, fantasy, and full-unadulterated enjoyment.

When Marvel first hit the presses (though it wasn’t called Marvel yet at that time) with their Captain America #1,  the world was introduced to the concept of superheroes, and what could arguably be one of the largest movements in media in history. Who could have then imagined, that just after more than fifty years, that single Captain America issue would branch out into more than tens of thousands of other stories, notable works would of course include the solo-runs for Iron Man, the Hulk, Daredevil, Thor, and the like.

Stanley Martin Lieber, born December 28th, 1922 in Manhattan, New York, dreamed of nothing less than to work in the industry he would be famous for today. Known now as the Comic Book Legend and Pop Culture Creator, from this endeavor would result the hundreds of superheroes we know today, of which the Avengers and the X-Men are only a small part of.

Marvel Comics, originally started out as Timely Publications, of which Stanley Lieber, or as we know him better as Stan Lee, was a crucial part of. Established in the 1940’s, the comic publication would soon usher in the Golden Age of Comics, from which the modern heroes we find today would be created.

WHY IT MATTERS.

To newer and more recent fans of Marvel’s cinematic works, Stan Lee’s fame is only attributed to the old man he plays that appears in every single Marvel movie ever made.

But the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would not be possible if it were not built upon a vast and colorful universe that spanned decades in the making in that old man’s original masterwork: Marvel comics.

If you’re not a hardcore fan (or a casual or simply not a fan at all ), then perhaps Stan Lee’s passing would not hit you as hard as it should.

But we should not be deterred! For it was from his interview with Playboy Magazine that he said, “You know, my motto is ‘Excelsior.’ That’s an old word that means ‘upward and onward to greater glory.’ It’s on the seal of the state of New York. Keep moving forward, and if it’s time to go, it’s time. Nothing lasts forever.” Indeed, nothing lasts forever, even Lee. But what will continue on is the wondrous world he created, and all of the heroic characters that reside in it.

It’s important to note, throughout all this, that Lee was never alone. He may have been the mastermind behind the stories we love, but the rest of the ensemble can’t have functioned by his powers alone. It was through his collaboration with other artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, both of whom really helped the company flourish during the Silver Age of Comics, around the 1950’s to 1970’s.

LEE AND HIS CREATION IS CULTURALLY ICONIC.

I can speak for more than myself when I say that Stan Lee’s works as they were originally depicted in the comics and as some were given a cinematic adaptation were key pieces of our childhood, well into our adolescence and until now.

The Comic Book Legend truly left an iconic piece of work that has grown and expanded over the more than half-century since its inception; and we can say it’s iconic because we can mention the name Spiderman and those around us will almost always immediately know we’re talking about Peter Parker, and not a mutant hybrid half-spider half-man. We can mention any names of the marvel superheroes out of context and people would just know about them. Stan Lee’s characters have inarguably become household names.

Of course this doesn’t even come close to the amount of detail and worldbuilding that has truly highlighted the scope of the universe that Stan Lee has created. It is not right to say that Stan Lee is solely responsible for all of Marvel Comics, as he was simply but also the most important first step, first domino, first push. Everything else quickly followed suit.

It is hard to imagine how different the world would be if the Avengers or the X-Men never existed. Of course, we are referring to works of fiction, but the concepts and stories have been ingrained so effectively into the nooks and crannies of our culture and society that we just can’t help but imagine that they are real, and that in itself is a great tribute to someone who devoted all his life creating comic content.

Personally as a fan, I see both the MCU and the Comics not only as very creative sources of inspiration and entertainment, but also as the ever-changing medium through which different artists and authors send a message. A message that although spoken now through a different voice and written with a different pen, all originated with that first stroke of ink that Stan Lee himself wrote on the first piece of paper when he was just starting out. That is to say, he may no longer be with us, but the essence of his work will continue to persist, no matter who is behind the visuals for the comic, or is directing the movie.

It’s thanks to Stan Lee’s devotion and passion to his craft that he was able to give the world countless tales and mishaps of the many superheroes we know and love today. And we know and love them especially because they are superheroes: they are role-models who stand up for justice and fight for what’s right; perhaps more so than Stan Lee could have ever imagined, they became the creative source and inspiration for countless children all around the world.

But yet, fans and non-fans alike feel the world’s loss of a great icon: an icon who brought us more than a hundred diverse, unique, and very creative heroes, situated in a world built and cultivated over the longest time: and now time will continue on without him. It couldn’t have been done without him, but we have to see it through without him.

So here’s to Stan Lee. He may not have been able to fly or lift buildings, but he was blessed with the superpower to reach out to people by the millions, over many generations to come. He will surely be remembered as the one and only Comic Book Legend.

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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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