Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET
After publishing images of a visit to Japan’s “suicide forest” that included footage of a dead body, YouTube star Logan Paul is apologizing — and critics are denouncing both the video and Logan’s behavior in it. The video was watched millions of times before he removed it.
“I didn’t do it for views. I get views,” said Paul, who has some 15 million YouTube subscribers. “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.”
The video was filmed in the Aokigahara forest at the edge of Mount Fuji, an area that for years has been famous for its popularity among people who want to carry out a suicide. In his video, Paul blurred out the face of the person who had died, but he showed other parts of the body as he and his friends stood near it and talked.
Intended or not, an intense backlash has hit Paul, including calls for YouTube to remove his channel.
The negative feedback included a tweet from actress and online video veteran Anna Akana, who lost her sister, Kristina, to suicide 10 years ago.
“Dear @LoganPaul, When my brother found my sister’s body, he screamed with horror & confusion & grief & tried to save her. That body was a person someone loved. You do not walk into a suicide forest with a camera and claim mental health awareness.”
Akana was responding to Paul’s attempt at an apology, in which he wrote, “I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention and while I thought ‘if this video saves just ONE life, it’ll be worth it,’ I was misguided by shock and awe, as portrayed in the video. I still am.”
An edited version of the video was later posted to Twitter; it does not include footage of the body. Rather, it shows some of Paul’s reactions and comments.
YouTube says that Paul’s video violates its policies against presenting violent or gory content in a way that is sensational or disrespectful.
When contacted by NPR, a YouTube spokesperson said, “Our hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video.”
The site confirms that Logan Paul took the video down. It also notes that it works with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — and that it displays suicide prevention resources at the top of the results for YouTube searches related to suicide.
Paul said that he had “demonetized” the video, which included a segment in the parking lot near the forest in which he told viewers that his laughter and attempts at humor were a coping mechanism after seeing the body. He had initially cast the outing as an attempt to look for ghosts — but the Aokigahara’s reputation as a suicide hotspot is well-known. It was the subject of a Vice documentary in 2012, for instance.
“The group’s guide phones the police while they approach the body, shouting ‘Yo, are you alive, are you fooling with us?’ They film the apparent suicide victim up close, blurring his face but showing his hands, clothes, and abandoned bag. Paul then talks to the camera, saying: ‘Suicide is not a joke. Depression and mental illnesses are not a joke. We came here with an intent to focus on the haunted aspect of the forest. This just became very real.’ ”
Those sentiments did little to ease the criticism from actor Aaron Paul, who said in a tweet, “Dear @LoganPaul, How dare you! 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. You are pure trash. Plain and simple. Suicide is not a joke. Go rot in hell.”
YouTube star Laci Green wrote, “logan paul exploiting a suicide victim in Japan to the tune of 6M+ views while youtube demonetizes students protesting in Iran is a perfect example of what a sociopathic garbage fire youtube has become. this industry has no soul left. byeee.”
On Tuesday, Logan Paul released a video apology saying that the encounter in the forest had been unplanned, adding, “I should have never posted the video; I should have put the cameras down, stopped recording what we were going through. There’s a lot of things I should have done differently, but I didn’t. And for that, from the bottom of my heart, I am sorry.”
The apologies come as Paul has also been criticized for mocking Japanese culture during his visit to the country. At the end of the first of those videos shot in Japan, Paul said, “Literally this place is content gold.”
The day before he published the suicide forest video, Logan Paul had written on Twitter, “tomorrow’s vlog will be the craziest and most real video I’ve ever uploaded.”
Japan’s suicide rate is one of the highest among developed nations. In the U.S., the rate has been climbing since 2000 — with the biggest increase seen in girls who are 10-14 years old, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last year.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a resource for people who are “thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support.” The free and confidential service is available in either English (1-800-273-8255) or Spanish (1-888-628-9454). There is also a line tailored for veterans (1-800-273-8255).