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Inside the world of extreme 'terror pranking'

Inside the world of extreme 'terror pranking'
From BBC - February 11, 2018

Fake bombs, staged murders, stunts that resemble acid attacks - as competition for eyeballs on YouTube gets fiercer every day, popular vloggers are resorting to extreme pranks to get clicks.

Arya Mosallah's video channel had more than 650,000 subscribers. But his YouTube career came skidding to a halt with a video titled "Throwing Water On Peoples Faces PT. 2". In it, he approaches several people, and after a brief conversation, throws a cup of water in their faces.

Many viewers thought the prank in the video looked like an attempt by the British social media star to mimic an acid attack - amid a recent increase in such crimes in London and across the UK.

YouTube deleted Mosallah's channel - and then a second channel he set up. He told the BBC he had not meant to reference acid attacks - but that he would continue to produce prank videos.

But Arya Mosallah is certainly not the first YouTuber to get into trouble for prank videos. His story, along with the controversy over hugely popular Youtuber Logan Paul joking about a suicide victim to his young audience, have put a spotlight on extreme content on YouTube.

But although it appears to be on the rise - and is getting more attention from news outlets - extreme pranking is not an entirely new phenomenon. For some time, vloggers have been faking bomb attacks and murders, tricking and frightening friends and members of the public in an attempt to up their view counts.

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Extreme prank history

In 2016, four people involved in the YouTube channel Trollstation were jailed for staging a fake robbery at London's National Portrait Gallery. They pleaded guilty to "threatening behaviour causing fear of unlawful violence."

The previous year, British YouTuber Sam Pepper uploaded a video in which he pretended to kill another internet celebrity in front of an unsuspecting friend.

There was a huge backlash and Pepper later claimed the video had been staged, and that the apparently traumatised friend had been in on the stunt all along.

Perhaps the grandfather of extreme pranking is Vitaly Zdorovetskiy, whose YouTube channel gained notoriety in 2012 after he pretended to put a briefcase containing a bomb next to a stranger.

He was arrested for that and several other subsequent pranks and stunts. But YouTubers including, Arya Mosallah, have been filming variations of his bomb prank ever since.

Speaking to Trending in 2015, Zdorovetskiy admitted pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. He also seemed unclear about exactly where he would draw the line.

"I am not going to take a gun on somebody point it and say 'Give me your money, it's a prank.' I would not do anything illegal - maybe just a little bit."

Logan Paul is not primarily known as a pranker, but has done similar stunts. In one video he faked his own violent death in front of a crowd of fans.

On Friday, YouTube suspended advertising on his channel. In a statement the company said that Paul had exhibited "a pattern of behaviour in his videos that makes his channel not only unsuitable for advertisers, but also potentially damaging to the broader creator community."

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