A message to YouTube creators and "our community"
I am 23 years old, and I have been watching YouTube for seven years. It’s been a huge part of my life for a long, long time. This abuse ‘scandal’ (though scandal is a terrible word for it) has made me sad, and not just about the abuse itself, but about the community as a whole.
Some of you are still putting your careers before the protection of your audience. You’d rather ignore the situation than risk saying something about it, and facing a backlash.
There are some of you who do make a comment. Maybe send a tweet or even a tumblr post. But that’s it. And often, it’s too little, too late.
When it came out about Jason (veeoneeye), no one seemed surprised. In fact, a lot of you implied you already knew about it. This was the first we were hearing about it, but we literally saw you all breathe a collective sigh of relief that finally, he got what was coming to him. But what if Ania hadn’t come forward? You’d still be sitting there today, knowing what you know, and he’d still be out there, able to carry on doing what he was doing. We would all be none the wiser.
I understand that without concrete proof, or without ‘outing’ a victim, you can’t exactly make a public announcement or video about a specific person. I understand that there is nothing directly you could have done.
But Jason is just one example. Sam Pepper was acting inappropriately with his audiences for a long time, at previous conferences for example, as many of you have mentioned, yet no one said or did anything. You need to call out this behaviour. You need to say something so it doesn’t all fall on the shoulders of the victims, who already have so much to deal with.
So what can you do? What can and should we, as your audience, expect from you now?
You can concentrate on making YouTube a safe place for those who have come forward, and for anyone who wants to come forward in the future. You have to support them. You have to show them that you have heard them and you are still listening.
You can speak up against the abusers. Tell them that there is no place for them in our community. Tell people, whether they are fellow creators or fans, that if they agree with or support these YouTubers, then they don’t belong here either.
And most of all, you need to talk about it, loudly and openly.
One of the biggest things I took from the Sam Pepper situation was that there seemed to be a lack of awareness about everything. People were referencing Tom Milsom/Alex Day etc, but I saw so many tweets from people asking what had even happened.
Making a blog post condemning someone is all well and good, but the majority of your YouTube subscribers don’t see that sort of thing. If you compare your subscriber counts to twitter followers, there is a massive difference.
I didn’t see a single video in my sub box about the abuse “scandal” that happened earlier this year. I know there were videos, but I had to search for them. (I mean specifically about the abuse and accusations about YouTubers, not just ‘consent’. ) In fact, just a few days after it happened, it was like everyone had forgotten about it. I don’t think it was ever really mentioned again, not that it was properly addressed in the first place.
This stuff originates on YouTube and that is where the discussion needs to be. And not just generic videos about consent. But about this. About your fellow creators abusing people. You need to make actual videos about it, on your main channels.
I’ve heard some of you say that if all of you make videos about it, you’ll start regurgitating the same information and the videos will become redundant. I don’t think any video highlighting abuse could be redundant. Yes, there is some crossover with subscribers, but not 100%. There will still be someone who is subscribed to you who hasn’t heard, who doesn’t know. And it is your responsibility to make it known. Because if you don’t take that responsibility, who will?
We understand there is little you can do about revealing the YouTubers who do abuse people. But maybe you can do something to stop abusers in the future. You can make it known that this is not something they can get away with. You have to make sure that it is never swept under the rug again. That it is not just a passing “scandal” that everyone forgets about in a few days. That this is a safe space, an actual community.
But we also need you to make people aware that there are YouTubers like this. We need you to make people aware that you are not celebrities. That we should not worship you, that we cannot idolise you. That some people on YouTube do do bad things, and they aren’t Gods who can do no wrong and that we need to really believe that.
We need you to talk about abuse and the abusers. Mostly, we just need you to talk.
A long term ‘fan’
P.S. This letter refers to a 'you’ and 'we’. 'You’ is the YouTube creator. 'We’ is the audience/fans. In the past, I would have talked about what ’we as a community’ can do. But that ’we’ does not exist anymore. There is you, and us. And this is about what you should do.
EDIT: I just want to make sure the focus is on what YouTubers can do now, not what they perhaps should have done before. I completely understand that there was very little to be done by other creators before Ania or anyone else decided to come forward. I know that no one can speak on the behalf of others, I was just expressing my frustration about this point. But you can speak about stuff you’ve witnessed first hand, which what I was meant about calling out Sam Pepper’s behaviour.
EDIT 2 (29/09/14): The response to this message has been great, thank you. And the message seems to be getting across, with a lot of YouTube creators making videos, talking frankly about the situation, which is great. But we can’t lose momentum. Please share this as far and wide as you can, especially if you are a YouTube creator, no matter what size your audience is.