YouTube star Logan Paul has apologised after uploading a video that appeared to show the body of someone who had taken their own life.
The clip, which was reportedly viewed millions of times before being deleted, showed the vlogger and his friends uncovering what they said was a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, a notorious spot known locally as the "suicide forest".
“I hate to say this, but I think there’s someone hanging right there, I’m not even f***ing kidding,” Paul tells friends during the 15-minute video. “Do you see it? This isn’t a f***ing joke guys, that’s a f***ing person”.
The camera repeatedly cuts back to the body, including showing a close-up of the person's hands. The face is blurred out.
“Yo, are you alive?” Paul calls out when facing the corpse. “Are you f***ing with us?”
The 22-year-old tells a friend to call the police, and footage later appears to show rescue services at a nearby car park. It is not clear if they are there specifically to attend to the reported suicide.
Paul has since deleted the footage, which was published on 31 December, after facing a wave of criticism.
"Let's start with this—I'm sorry," Paul wrote in a Twitter post to his 3.9 million followers. "This is a first for me. I've never faced criticism like this before, because I've never made a mistake like this before. I'm surrounded by good people and believe I make good decisions, but I'm still a human being. I can be wrong."
"I didn't do it for views. I get views. 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. 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.
“I do this sh*t every day. I’ve made a 15 minute TV show EVERY SINGLE DAY for a past 460+days. One may understand that it’s easy to get caught up in the moment without fully weighing the possible ramifications.
"I'm often reminded of how big of a reach I truly have and with great power comes great responsibility. For the first time in my life I'm regretful to say I handled that power incorrectly. It won't happen again."
But Paul’s apology itself attracted criticism from social media users and celebrities alike.
Game of Thrones actor Sophie Turner branded the YouTube star an “idiot” for “mocking” the deceased.
Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul wrote: “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... Suicide is not a joke.”
A YouTube spokesperson told The Independent: "Our hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video. YouTube prohibits violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner.
"If a video is graphic, it can only remain on the site when supported by appropriate educational or documentary information and in some cases it will be age-gated."
Aokigahara is a forest on the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji with an historical reputation as a home to ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology.
Police records showed that 247 people tried to kill themselves in the forest in 2010, according to The Japan Times, Of them, 54 were successful.
Logan Paul and YouTube have been contacted for comment.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress you can call Samaritans on their 24-hour helpline on 116 123 in the UK or visit the website at www.samaritans.org
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