Outcry after American posts video in which he jokes with friends over apparent suicide victim they came across in forest
The celebrity YouTuber Logan Paul has apologised after sparking outrage by posting a video showing the body of an apparent suicide victim in Japan.
The 22-year-old American, who has 15 million subscribers on YouTube, was labelled “disrespectful” and “disgusting” after he joked with his friends about discovering the body in Aokigahara forest, a notorious suicide spot at the base of Mount Fuji.
The video, which Paul posted on Sunday, received millions of views before it was removed.
Paul and his friends, who are filming from various locations in Japan, reportedly came across the body moments after entering the forest. Their video showed the body of a man, whose identity is unknown, from several angles but blurs his face.
A member of the group is heard remarking that he “doesn’t feel good”. Paul replies: “What, you never stand next to a dead guy?” and then laughs.
The exchange, and the decision to upload images of the victim, prompted a wave of criticism online.
The Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul tweeted: “You disgust me. I can’t believe that so many young people look up to you. So sad. Hopefully, this latest video woke them up … Suicide is not a joke. Go rot in hell.”
Fellow YouTube star Kandee Johnson said: “Dear @youtube, after the Logan Paul video where he shows a dead body of a suicide victim, uses that for the title, makes heartless jokes next to the body, there needs to b age restrictions for certain creators. How is this allowed on YT? His followers are children! Horrifying.”
Paul later apologised to his 3.9 million followers on Twitter: “Where do I begin … Let’s start with this – I’m sorry,” he said.
“This is a first for me. I’ve never faced criticism like this before, because I’ve never made a mistake like this before.”
He added: “I didn’t do it for views. I get views. I did it because I thought I could make a positive ripple on the internet, not cause a monsoon of negativity. That’s never the intention. I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention.”
But the initial statement was criticised by many, including the Game Of Thrones actor Sophie Turner, who tweeted: “You’re not raising awareness. You’re mocking. I can’t believe how self-praising your ‘apology’ is. You don’t deserve the success (views) you have. I pray to God you never have to experience anything like that man did.”
British Labour MP Melanie Onn, who had tweeted that she bought a Logan Paul hoodie as a Christmas present for her 10-year-old son, said the video was “dreadful”, adding: “I can’t believe he was able to put that up without any checks at all.”
Paul later issued a second statement of apology. “I want to apologise to anyone who has seen the video. I want to apologise to anyone who has been affected or touched by mental illness or depression or suicide, but most importantly I want to apologise to the victim and his family,” he said. “For my fans who are defending my actions, please don’t – they do not deserve to be defended.”
YouTube said Paul’s video violated its policies, but did not respond to calls to suspend him from the site.
“Our hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video,” a YouTube spokeswoman said. “YouTube prohibits violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner. If a video is graphic, it can only remain on the site when supported by appropriate educational or documentary information and in some cases it will be age-gated.”
Aokigahara has gained worldwide notoriety as a suicide spot, with a record 105 bodies reportedly discovered there in 2003. Local police have stopped releasing the number of annual deaths in an attempt to reduce the area’s association with suicide.
The forest’s hiking trails are dotted with signs urging those with suicidal thoughts to consider their families and contact a suicide prevention group.
The number of Japanese who kill themselves has fallen in recent years, although the country still has the sixth highest suicide rate in the world.
The number of people who took their own lives dropped to 21,897 in 2016 – the lowest level in 22 years – according to government figures.
The number rose in the late 1990s and remained just above 30,000 for more than 10 years – a rate experts partly attributed to financial pressures caused by the collapse of the bubble economy in 1992 and the end of lifetime employment.
The lack of services for people with mental health problems, as well as debt and serious illness – particularly among elderly people – have also been cited as common causes of suicide in Japan.
The figure has remained below 30,000 a year since 2012.
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.