YouTube prankster arrested for hiding stop signs

Yesterday, I briefly returned to the cesspit that is YouTube’s over-the-top pranking community to cover the story of a man who lost custody of his children as a direct result. Today, I’m back again, because someone has seemingly been arrested for their downright dangerous foray into the fine art of putting outrageous stuff on YouTube and watching the ad money roll in.

Today’s dose of unpleasantness comes via RossCreations, a channel that currently boasts 563,428 subscribers. In the video in question, Ross appears dressed in road worker gear and removes a couple of stop signs at an intersection. The creators then enjoy watching a couple of cars speed through unimpeded by safety measures – because, apparently, that’s what a good prank involves.

Or maybe this part is the prank: the video then cuts to Ross being handcuffed and arrested by officers, who he claims have charged him with third-degree felony of grand theft, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. The video ends with Ross attempting to raise $5,000 legal funds from his subscribers. At the time of writing, he seems to have raised $1,288.youtube_prankster_arrested_for_moving_stop_signs

Where to start with this? I suppose the first point would be to highlight that since this is a prank video, it might all just be an act. There may be no police, no court date: just a prank on you – the viewer. Performance art at its finest: a modern day Andy Kaufman*, if you will. After all, it isn’t unheard of for people to make stuff up on the internet in order to make a quick buck.

But let’s assume that it is happening. Stop signs are there for a reason. Messing with traffic flow is a serious business, even in a relatively quiet-looking street like the one in the video. And if someone had been injured as a result of this stupid prank, Ross could have been looking at a far more serious sentence. Back in 1997, three people were sentenced to 15 years in prison for the removal of a stop sign that ultimately led to the death of three 18-year-olds.

But this is all just part of the problem of how YouTube is monetised, and why prank videos are so popular. It’s a perfect storm for terrible content such as this: 65 years of video is uploaded every day, so it can’t be monitored, even though “harmful or dangerous content” is prohibited in YouTube’s terms of service. Meanwhile, a revenue model that promises between $8 to $80 for 10,000 views leads to people doing more outrageous things to keep subscribers watching.

As more of these examples come to light in the world outside of the YouTube ecosystem, it will be interesting to see what steps Google takes to prevent the worst examples grabbing the headlines. The company has already prevented channels with fewer than 10,000 views monetising their content, and run education workshops on good netizenship. What’s the next step?

*This man is not a modern day Andy Kaufman.

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