Sam Pepper has done it again. Another disgusting video with yet more vile content and presented to the world as a ‘prank’. This time Pepper’s idea of a joke was to fake a murder. Because murder is hilarious, did you not know? Of course people were outraged, including myself. I have strong opinions and am not afraid to voice them, I am politically active, a politics student, and often lend support to causes I agree with. However, I have never been so offended that I felt the need to start a petition. Well, that was until Monday, after I watched Pepper’s video.
The problem with the Sam Peppers of the world is that they clearly build their careers around being controversial. Sam Pepper is the Katie Hopkins of YouTube. All he wants is to be famous; he does not care what he is famous for. Part of me did not want to indulge him in his quest for notoriety but I felt strongly that someone needed to do something in attempt to stop him. The majority of the YouTube community had already spoken out against Pepper and practically disowned him after the allegations of sexual assault that arose in 2014. Unfortunately, YouTube are still providing Sam Pepper with an audience, even after he has proved he is not responsible with his content and abuses his platform. This really frustrated me and so, after a suggestion from my partner, I decided to launch a petition on change.org to ask YouTube to deactivate Pepper’s account.
In the first few hours of the opening the petition, only a few people signed. Then out of nowhere, it seemed to gain momentum. It reached 1000 signatures, then 50,000 and within 24 hours, it had surpassed 100,000 signatures. As I type this, the petition has over 155,000 signatures and it is still increasing by the minute. One hundred and fifty five thousand people agree that Sam Pepper should be removed from YouTube, including several high profile members of the YouTube community. However, YouTube have stated they believe the video does not break their community guidelines so will not take the video down.
I personally feel that the video does break their guidelines. Surely Pepper knew that uploading a video so similar to execution videos created by terrorist organisations was not a particularly sensitive idea and could be seen as promoting terrorism and/or violent culture. If younger viewers watched this video and believed it was acceptable to kidnap their friends and tie them up, they may get arrested for false imprisonment. I do not believe ‘it was just a prank’ would fly in a court of law. Sam Golbach, who was the subject of Pepper’s prank, later said that he had not been traumatised from the event and was happy for the video to be uploaded to YouTube. However, I feel this is not really relevant. For once, consent is not the issue. The issue is that this is a very real problem that people are facing every day. It should never be replicated as a prank. Because, quite simply, murder is not a laughing matter.
Some people have accused me of trying to censor YouTubers and deprive them the right to free speech. I can assure you, that is not my intention. I do not want to limit creators in that way but I do want them to realise they have a responsibility with the platform they have been given. If Sam Pepper really cared about anything other than notoriety, he would have apologised and removed the video as soon as he realised most people had been repulsed by what they saw. But in true Pepper style, he did not care; he basked in the attention. He has been allowed to get away with this once before and because of this, he feels untouchable. It is such a shame that YouTube is endorsing this attitude of invincibility.