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DaddyOFive: Why dad’s ‘prank’ videos became some of the most controversial on YouTube

The channel became famous for its catchphrase ‘it’s just a prank bro’. But other YouTubers said it was far more than that

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 02 May 2017 15:20 BST
DaddyOFive offers apology for treatment of children in their videos

A family accused of inadvertently documenting child abuse on their YouTube account have become perhaps the site's most controversial users.

The DaddyOFive account – which most recently came in the news after apparently losing custody of their children – has also brought to light some of the dark side of YouTube and its culture.

DaddyOFive began in 2015, and gets its name from the fact that it is run by a man who is father to five children. It would go on to feature daily videos of the kind of “pranks” that has led huge controversy to follow the family.

Those videos would include videos titles things like “8 year old gets waterboarded” and describing the “epic freakout” that the parents brought upon their children. Their contents were in line with the titles – and showed the parents telling one of their children that he was being adopted out of the family, had his belongings destroyed and was being blamed for destroying the house.

Sometimes, they appeared to depict physical violence. In some video, Cody’s siblings are seen hitting and wrestling him; in another, Cody is shown being pushed hard into a bookcase and appears to end up with a bloody nose.

They would usually end with Cody, who bore the brunt of the pranks, weeping and crying, and pleading with the dad to bring the videos and the treatment to an end. His father would then utter the catchphrase “it’s just a prank, bro” – which appeared intended to make Cody happy but didn’t usually have that effect.

All of those videos have now disappeared from the DaddyOFive YouTube channel, replaced only with the two parents’ apology. That has been viewed nearly two million times.

It became that famous only over time, and the family picked up its subscribers organically through YouTube. As they became more famous, they were linked to in one prominent Reddit forum, which helped propel them to nearly one million subscribers.

Often, the children are shown in the videos being told that the things they have been bought by their parents are paid for by the money coming from the pranks.

With the increased prominence came increased scrutiny, and the YouTube community turned its attention to the channel. The most famous of those responses came from Philip DeFranco, who made a video collating some of the worst footage and arguing that it was evidence of child abuse.

That video itself was viewed more than a million times. In turn, that brought attention from mainstream news outlets and TV stations, who covered the controversial channel and the accusations that were swirling around it.

The man behind the DaddyOFive account claimed that those criticisms were harming his children. He posted a video saying that the things shown in the video weren’t as harsh as they seemed, and that it was in fact the increased attention that was leading to stress for his children.

The parents had separately claimed that the videos were in fact fake or scripted, and that the children's reactions were played for the camera.

That failed to bring an end to the criticism, and that video was then removed – along with every other video posted onto the account. In their place appeared an apology video, in which the two parents appeared to say sorry for the way they had treated their kids but suggested that the treatment appeared worse to people who were outside of the family.

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