Online “pranking” does not justify harassment

Popular YouTuber Sam Pepper has recently come under fire for his latest “prank,” titled “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank,” featuring Pepper approaching women on the street and proceeds to pinch their butts. This clear act of assault has lead to much public outcry denouncing his actions, ultimately leading YouTube to remove the video two days later.

Pepper has since released two follow up videos. One features a role reversal of the previous prank video with a female pinching the butts of seemingly unsuspecting males. The other explains that these two videos were a social experiment to spread awareness of sexual assault and that all parties featured had consented to be in the videos.

The message Sam claimed he intended seems disingenuous given his several previous videos, which shows him handcuffing women against their will and another pulling them in with a lasso against their will. This behavior is presented as acceptable and harmless fun.

These videos are just as, if not more, intrusive as the video that was removed by the video hosting website because it violated YouTube’s policy on nudity and sexual content.

Pepper is not the only prankster online who actively bullies people on the street under the guise of a prank. Other YouTube channels approach people on the street with unfunny, racially charged jokes and invade personal space to garner angry, often physical reactions just for video views. Meanwhile, AdrianVanOyen are “picking up girls naked” to see what would happen.  The fact that these videos remain online conspicuously justifies street harassment, assault, and destruction of property, as long as the prank is “not meant to be offensive.”

Additionally, the popularity of these videos encourages younger, more impressionable viewers to create copycat “prank” videos to become just as “famous.” The complete removal of these videos would be the only effective measure to completely stop this trend and show that this behavior is outright wrong.

What is extremely concerning is that all of these videos violate YouTube’s Terms of Service. Yet, despite YouTube’s claims videos are being reviewed, all of theses videos still are online in some form.

There are many ways to create acceptable prank videos, in which all the parties involved consent to the activities happening with no unwanted violation of personal space, and in which all of the participants in the prank are entertained by the outcome.

Unfortunately, these videos will always continue to exist as long as people find them funny. Hopefully, if YouTube starts to remove these prank videos with offending content, this will start to discourage others from creating these videos.

But in the end, it is up to creators to monitor the videos they put out and beware of the lessons and the malicious intent they demonstrate.