Let's be honest: there are a lot of terrible people on YouTube. When you give the masses an online platform from which anyone can perform or preach, things are bound to go wrong. YouTube has over a billion users, with more than 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Aside from an abundance of pointless videos, this translates to a constant need for YouTubers to one-up each other. In a world where turning off the camera could mean losing out on viewers and ad revenue, vloggers are pushing the limits of what is deemed acceptable for internet consumption. This raises the question: how far is too far?
The worst YouTube stars have contributed to an online environment so offensively toxic that the site is scrambling to clean up its act after major advertisers started a boycott.
So what does it take to walk among the worst YouTubers ever? It depends, but it's hard to defend videos that seemingly sensationalize suicide, encourage the mistreatment of children, or promote anti-Semitism. Here’s a roundup of some YouTubers who are the worst, no matter how you look at the situation.
Austin Jones is an acapella singer whose YouTube videos, often featuring covers of pop artists such as Justin Bieber and Fall Out Boy, have amassed millions of views. Of his more than 500,000 subscribers, many are young girls, and it was Jones's interaction with this demographic that led to his arrest at Chicago O'Hare Airport. He allegedly encouraged two underaged teen girls to produce sexually explicit media. If convicted, Jones could spend at least 15 years in federal prison.
According to the accusations, Jones was chatting with a 14-year-old fan - nearly a decade his junior - on Facebook, an age gap that he acknowledged during their exchanges. She claimed she was his biggest fan, and he told her to "prove" it to him, adding that if she were "lucky" then she could get physical with him. Authorities said Jones received a total of 25 videos from the girl, who exposed her genitals in eight of recordings.
This is only one of multiple interactions of the same nature, all involving teenage girls around the age of 14. He reportedly asked multiple girls to send him videos of themselves twerking, which he called, "auditions," and some fans obliged. A complaint claimed that Jones admitted the requested videos were for sexual pleasure.
Why would parents abuse their children for the sake of popularity? Gregory Chism, single father and founder of the "Toy Freaks" channel, garnered millions of subscribers by creating videos wherein he "pranked" his two daughters, both of whom were under 10 years old at the time.
In the videos, Chism scares his daughters as they bathe by throwing a live frog in the tub, and, in some of the most criticized videos, forcing them to act like babies by having them wet themselves, spit on each other, and even ingest and regurgitate things like crayons.
Chism was kicked off of YouTube after concern was raised that the videos may have caused severe psychological damage to his children.
Heather and Michael Martin are a Maryland couple whose controversial YouTube channel, "DaddyOFive," largely featured so-called pranks involving their five children. DaddyOFive was Michael's moniker Michael, while Heather went by MommyOFive. Together, they posted videos that were supposed to be funny, but appeared quite cruel.
The videos showed the parents destroying the children's belongings, as well as yelling and swearing at them until they cried. The couple focused particularly on their two youngest children, Emma and Cody, who were around 11 and nine years old at the time the videos were posted.
Authorities got involved after critics and viewers slammed the Martins for the allegedly abusive videos. Both parents have pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor child neglect. They lost custody of the two kids, who are Michael's biological children from a previous relationship.
The videos deemed offensive have long since been removed, but that hasn't stopped the parents from posting new videos under the name "FamilyOFive." In July 2018, YouTube terminated the FamilyOFive channel from its site.
In the mid-late 2000s, Andrew Scott Haley, AKA "catchmekiller," posted a video on YouTube in which he claimed to have killed 16 people. In an elaborate internet hoax, he distorted his voice and face and played the part of a serial killer giving clues in an purported attempt to have the public catch him. Most disturbingly, Haley referenced real-life disappearances of young girls and claimed to have information and graphic details about what really happened to them. The victims were real; the stories and catchmekiller'sattachment to them were not.
Despite his efforts to disguise his identity, and after investigating several dead ends, authorities eventually tracking the IP address of the video poster to Haley. After questioning him and realizing conclusively that he had no real knowledge of the crimes in question — or any murders, for that matter — they arrested him on charges of tampering with evidence and making false statements. He pled guilty, was tried and found guilty on both charges and sentenced to two years in a work release program. His lawyer insisted his actions were "creepy," but not criminal.
However, after his release, Haley challenged his initial charge of making false statements. He insisted the charge did not apply to him because the law doesn't distinguish between a false statement and a fraudulent one, and that, while he admitted the video was wrong, he believed his first amendment right to free speech was trampled during his trial. He further argued that he never made false statements directly to authorities because, once they tracked him down, he admitted in full his video was just a part of a game.
However, very real families of the victims he alluded to in his video became embroiled in the case, and significant police investigation time was also wasted on the false leads given in the video. Eventually, The Georgia Supreme Court did in fact agree that there was no evidence Haley directly tampered with any criminal evidence, but they upheld the false statements charge.