When Vlogging Becomes Social Activism

This year marks Youtube’s 10th birthday, so The Guardian (2015) had a look into the evolution of Youtube. The notable development for 2014? 

“Abuse on Youtube.” 

It is important to note that abuse on Youtube has been an issue for a number of years, however, 2014 marked the first time the Youtube community collectively and actively engaged in social activism around this ongoing problem.

The various videos from Sam Pepper, a ‘famous’ Youtuber who films ‘pranks’ consisting of assault and harassment as content for his videos. He has also been accused of using his youtube ‘fame’ to solicit sexual favours from female fans, including minors.

The Youtube community actively engaged through video blogs (vlogs), which Professor of cultural anthropology, Michael Wesch (2009), describes as a “conversation with one’s self”, recorded from a private, secure environment to an ambiguous audience. This first-person type recording allows the camera to become more than simply a recorder, it acts as an ally, allowing the vlogger to share their experiences and thoughts from a space they feel comfortable in (Aufderheide 1997).

In the case of the sexual abuse allegations within the Youtube community, the camera was able to do just this – Youtube users shared their experiences of sexual assault/ harassment and other Youtube users responded with support. The Youtube community has basically said ‘enough is enough, it’s time to start a conversation about abuse within our community and work out how to eradicate the environment that allows for this kind of abuse to take place’.

Screenshot from AniaMags'

Screenshot from AniaMags’ vlog “A warning to ‘fans'” recounting the sexual assault she went through ‘famous’ Youtube personality “VeeOneEye”, when she was 15 and he was 20. Following this vlog, VeeOneEye uploaded an apology video to Ania admitting his wrongdoing, which he has since removed.

Screenshot 2015-03-14 14.39.11

A screenshot from The Third Pew’s vlog “Youtubers and Sexual Abuse (Sam Pepper, VeeOneEye Etc)”, addressing the sexual assault allegations and raising awareness towards the social and cultural phenomenon of victim blaming.

Sex-positive Youtube user, Laci Green (2014), made a call-to-action, asking her fellow youtube community to support the survivors who had come forward and to raise awareness towards sexual assault and harassment.

“Let it be known across the land, this is not what the youtube community stands for. We need to listen to those stories of people coming forward and we need to support them”

– Laci Green

Laci’s vlog prompted many more Youtube users to share their experiences and thoughts and the issue even reached mainstream media, including Channel 4 News.

Since the outbreak of vlogs calling for awareness and action towards “Abuse on Youtube”, survivors of abuse have found themselves a supportive community in which they can share their experiences and join the call for change. Unfortunately, as Laci Green stated, there have been no legal consequences for the perpetrators thus far. That said, vlogging as social activism is an encouraging first step towards social change.

If you have experienced/ are experiencing sexual assault or harassment, click this link for advice/ help. 

REFERENCES:

Aufderheide, P 1997, ‘Public intimacy: The development of first-Person documentary’, Afterimage, 25, 1, p. 16, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.

Jaworski, M, Romano, A, & Votta, R, 2014. A guide to YouTube’s biggest sex abuse scandals. The Daily Dot, [Online]. Available at: http://www.dailydot.com/entertainment/youtube-sex-abuse-scandals-guide/ [Accessed 10 March 2015].

Huynh, T, 2014. Crossing the line: YouTube community in crisis as sexual assault allegations are made public. Tech Geek, [Online]. Available at: http://techgeek.com.au/2014/03/20/crossing-the-line/[Accessed 10 March 2015].

lacigreen. (2014). Sam Pepper Exposed . [Online Video]. 25 September. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9qVaMhnJB8. [Accessed: 08 March 2015].

lacigreen. (2014). Sam Pepper Exposed 2. [Online Video]. 16 October. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_9sZ2sL6jA. [Accessed: 08 March 2015].

McConnell, F, 2015. YouTube is 10 years old: the evolution of online video. The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/13/youtube-10-years-old-evolution-of-online-video [Accessed 10 March 2015].

TheThirdPew. (2014). YouTubers and Sexual Abuse (Sam Pepper, VeeOneEye, etc.). [Online Video]. 29 September. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2P_h6_hKdc. [Accessed: 08 March 2015].

Wesch, M, 2009. YouTube and You: Experiences of Self-awareness in the Context Collapse of the Recording Webcam. Explorations in Media Ecology, [Online]. Vol 8/ Issue 2, 19-34. Available at:http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/handle/2097/6302 [Accessed 07 March 2015].

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About intersectionalalien

Hi hello people of earth/space/cyberspace, intersectional alien here. I’m still trying to figure out my place on this earth. I like intersectional feminism, feminism in popular culture, LGBTQ+, refugee rights, veganism, mental health, nihilism, travelling, unlearning institutional conditioning, good tunes and consuming and creating stories.
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