By ASHLEY BAKER, Guest Writer

YouTube is no longer known solely for cat videos. YouTube has evolved since its creation in February 2005. With the addition of different features, the shift in content, a major shift in audience, and the project being purchased by Google, nine years have certainly changed YouTube.

With every new sensation, growing pains happen. YouTube is certainly no different. The content creators have been very understanding and flexible with these growth problems. There are comment section changes, new public filming places, and award shows creating “Team Internet” categories.

As of late, new problems have been arising; some are calling it “The Sam Pepper Era”.  It has been introducing questionable content and a sudden disenchantment from many very popular “YouTubers.”

Over the last few days, I have also noticed the great success that YouTube has been able to bring people. Every good thing, unfortunately, has a dark side.

Sam Pepper is a mildly famous YouTuber. Not only did he frequent live events such as Playlist Live and Vid Con, but he also took place in YouTubers React (a series produced by the Fine Brothers). He even is a part, or rather, was a part of Collective Digital Studio.

sam pepper
Screenshots of other popular Sam Pepper videos.

Pepper recently uploaded a video titled “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank,” which has thrown the YouTube community for a barrel roll. Within, Sam “fakes out” young women by stuffing one arm of his hoodie, then proceeded to use his real arm to touch them inappropriately. Some women cry out, others make it blatantly obvious they’re shocked, even disgusted. There are constant remarks, and everyone who watches YouTube regularly has formed an opinion on the issue.

I’d like to focus on a particular YouTuber, Laci Green, who wrote an Open Letter to Sam. In her letter she presses the fact that PEOPLE do not enjoy, nor deserve, being sexually harassed. But she also is very professional and positive about it. She closed her letter with: “We invite you to join us in ending widespread bodily violation that takes place in so many forms around the world.”

Laci did not stop there. In her follow up video she discussed some of the repercussions of the letter. Young women are now speaking out about being abused- not only by Sam – but by other people they encountered over the years. Green kept up and was able to connect those individuals to the resources available to them.

Not only did Laci Green speak out about Sam’s recent video, but the Fine Brothers and Hank and John Green also spoke out. Hank Green published a tweet stating, “For people asking, it’s safe to assume that people who sexually assault women in ‘prank’ videos will not be welcome at future VidCons.” A reply to this tweet from the Fine Bros twitter account stated, “Appreciate seeing this. You won’t be seeing creators who partake in that behavior appear in YouTubers React either.” Both tweets have received enormous amounts of attention.

Sam Pepper then posted a second video with a female pinching male bums. If that wasn’t enough, a third video was uploaded stating that it was all a “social experiment” and all women involved had consented to it. This has not been confirmed, or denied by any of the women as of yet.

So the real question is:

Why is Sam Pepper ‘becoming an era’ and who else is being affected by it? Everyone should and needs to realize that this issue is becoming bigger.

This year, Nickelodeon’s Teen Choice Awards featured a #teaminternet portion, where familiar YouTubers were recognized for their accomplishments and for their content. “Team Internet” is growing quicker than ever before, and is helping to bring issues to light like Sam Pepper’s “sexual assault” video. Other YouTubers have been accused of similar issues. Some include Alex Day, and VeeOneEye (Jason) both of which came into focus earlier this year.

But Sam Pepper couldn’t have picked a worse time to upload this offensive video.

Not only has ‘Not Cool’ a movie produced by Shane Dawson just hit ITunes, but many other YouTubers such as Zoella, Tyler Oakley, Joey Graceffa, and Connor Franta are experiencing brand new and exciting changes in their lives. In fact, Zoella’s new beauty line just hit stores in the last two weeks.

Sam Pepper is affecting all of these people, not only because they are a part of his community, but because they are now being criticized for their work as YouTubers. As a member of the community you represent that community. If you do something similar to what Sam Pepper has done, then other YouTubers will be seen in that light.

Shane Dawson has since posted a video apologizing for a few of his videos. The topic revolved around his ignorant (his words not mine) use of black face, as a tool for acting. In his video he starts to ramble. But clearly states, “First of all I am not racist.” He continues to speak about what triggered him to realize that the content “black face” he portrayed wasn’t setting a good example for his audience. While this doesn’t excuse Dawson, it does certainly shed a better light on the situation that Sam did.

If it truly were a social experiment, then why did Sam Pepper begin to threaten Laci Green? She has tweeted pictures of emails that he has sent to her explicitly threatening her from his web address. This isn’t “none of our business”,  Sam; the second you had your assistants hit upload, it became the world’s business to make a few things clear. The representation that the recent video has shown does not encompass the YouTube community. Sexual assault, or abuse of any type, is not tolerated by anyone in our community and never has been tolerated.

We still are in the dark. Who do we believe? Sam? The man who lost 3890 subscribers in a 24-hour period? The women he has allegedly hurt?

YouTube can bend a lot of ways. This is definitely a side of YouTube that is just being discovered and dealt with. With any celebrity group there will be a scandal. Sam Pepper has initiated this phenomena for the YouTube community.

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