10 biggest YouTube scandals: From a faked death to jailtime over an Oreo

Meera Jacka
Logan Paul in his apology video

YouTube has seen many controversies, from faked deaths to cringy creator apologies. Here’s a list of the platform’s biggest scandals.

Since YouTube launched in 2005, the online video-sharing platform has had a massive influence on pop culture and given rise to many influencers.

With Wyzowl estimating there are more than 114 million active channels and at least 800 million videos, it should come as no surprise that there has also been a fair share of controversy.

With that said, here are the 10 biggest and craziest YouTube scandals that rocked the internet — and in some cases, even the world.

Sam Pepper fakes a kidnapping and murder


Sam Pepper joined YouTube in 2010 after appearing in the 11th season of British reality TV series, Big Brother. His content largely included prank videos, and Pepper had already found himself in the midst of controversy before his notorious scandal in 2015.

Pepper uploaded a video titled “Killing Best Friend Prank” in November, featuring fellow creators Sam Golbach and Colby Brock. Pepper, donning a mask, pretended to kidnap Golback and Brock, taking them to a rooftop before forcing Golbach to watch Brock be “shot.”

Golbach was left in tears, screaming in distress and visibly shaken before Brock got up and revealed his “death” was a prank. While it was eventually revealed that the entire prank was allegedly scripted, viewers were disgusted.

A subsequent online petition demanded that YouTube remove Pepper’s channel, gaining over 100,000 signatures. However, the platform determined the video didn’t break any of its community guidelines.

In response to the backlash, Pepper started a GoFundMe campaign that promised to delete his channel if $1.5 million was pledged to him. The campaign was not active for long, and Pepper decided to rebrand himself in 2016 with a 20-minute apology video on February 24.

Fine Brothers try to trademark “react”

React‘, formerly known as the Fine Brothers, appeared on YouTube in 2003 and gained traction for their React franchise in 2010. One of the first channels to focus content on reaction videos, the Fine Brothers watched their internet fame slip away after a trademark fiasco in 2016.

On January 25, the channel’s founders Benny and Rafi Fine announced their plan to trademark their content, particularly the term “react” itself. This news was not met well by viewers and fellow YouTubers, who slammed the brothers for attempting to profit from other reaction channels.

The subsequent backlash resulted in a dramatic drop in subscribers, with well over 600,000 accounts choosing to unfollow the channel. Days later on February 1, the brothers backtracked on their announcement with a since-deleted YouTube video and post on Medium.

“The concerns people have about React World are understandable… It makes perfect sense for people to distrust our motives here, but we are confident that our actions will speak louder than these words moving forward,” the post read.

While React still boasts 20 million subscribers today, its reputation has never recovered despite both brothers attempting to remove any indication of themselves from the channel.

Logan Paul films a body in the suicide forest

The Suicide Forest video was uploaded on December 31, 2017.

Influencer, professional wrestler, and entrepreneur Logan Paul has found massive fame since first starting on Vine in 2013. After the platform closed, he made the switch to YouTube the same year and had garnered a large following by 2015.

While Paul has been involved in multiple scandals over the years, the most notable occurred during a 2017 trip to Japan. On December 31, a video was posted on his channel showing Paul and multiple friends visiting the Aokigahara forest — also notoriously known as the “suicide forest.”

The group soon came across a deceased man who had committed suicide. While they did call the police, the group also made jokes and filmed the body. The backlash that followed was immense, with viewers slamming Paul’s actions as “disrespectful” and “disgusting.”

Paul quickly removed the video and posted an apology, admitting to having made a “severe and continuous lapse” in judgment and claiming his behavior was a “coping mechanism.” YouTube went on to punish Paul by demonetizing his content and removing his channels from Google Preferred.

His apology video was mocked by users, who weren’t convinced it was genuine. Nonetheless, Paul attempted to redeem himself by donating $1 million to suicide prevention agencies.

Despite the blow to his reputation, Paul has continued to succeed in the entertainment industry and has not let the controversy end his career.

MonaLisa Perez kills boyfriend in stunt gone wrong

Monalisa Perez and Pedro Ruiz III first met in 2012 before getting into a romantic relationship and eventually having two children together. But the couple’s love story was cut short while Perez was pregnant with their second child after Ruiz insisted on going “viral” online.

In hopes of finding fame online, Ruiz wanted to perform a dangerous stunt that involved having Perez fire a gun at him from only a foot away. Ruiz believed he would save himself from harm by holding a thick book in front of his chest.

While the couple had tested their theory, they had used a harder book and fired from further away. When it came to performing the actual stunt, the bullet went straight through and killed Ruiz.

Perez pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to serve a 180-day jail term, 10 years of supervised probation, and banned for life from owning firearms.

She has continued to make YouTube videos in the years since but has not spoken on the incident, claiming she was not allowed to.

“Momo Challenge” hoax

Parents were left terrified as widespread panic took over in 2018 and 2019 after reports that videos on YouTube Kids had included a disturbing image of a woman dubbed “Momo” who encouraged violence and self-harm.

Suicides were quickly linked to the “Momo Challenge” and multiple news agencies warned parents to keep an eye on what media their children consumed. Kim Kardashian also pleaded for YouTube to intervene, and advisories were issued by police forces and schools.

Despite this, in March 2019, a lack of physical evidence led the Children’s Commissioner for England to conclude the “Momo Challenge” was likely a case of moral panic. It has subsequently been dubbed a hoax and an internet urban legend.

Keisuke Aiso, a Japanese artist, was revealed to be the original creator of a sculpture that was ultimately used to depict “Momo” online. Following the online panic, he spoke out to reassure children that Momo was “dead” and could not hurt them, as the sculpture no longer existed.

“I threw it away and a week after the whole thing blew up,” he told The Sun. “It was falling apart, so it’s probably for the best. If you’d have seen it in the state it was in, it would have probably looked even more terrifying.”

ReSet jailed for Oreo prank

Kanghua Ren, better known online as ‘ReSet’, rose to fame on YouTube, notably in Spain and Latin America. But his brief career on the platform came to an end after he was prompted by one of his subscribers to play a “cruel” prank on a homeless man in 2017.

The video, which was posted online, showed Ren removing the filling of an Oreo and replacing it with toothpaste after a fan dared him to do so. He then found a Romanian man who was homeless in Barcelona, offering him €20 and the biscuit.

The man accepted, only to vomit after eating the doctored Oreo as Ren filmed the incident. While the YouTuber admitted he may have taken things a “little too far,” he also went on to make jokes about the prank, adding, “This helped him clean his teeth. I don’t think he’s brushed them since he became poor.”

The online uproar that followed saw Ren quickly attempt to prevent legal repercussions by giving the man a further €300. Despite his efforts, a judge in Barcelona, Rosa Aragonés, sentenced Ren to 15 months in prison.

Spanish newspaper El País reported that Aragonés pointed to Ren’s history of “cruel behavior” that targeted “easy or vulnerable victims” as reasoning for the sentence.

She concluded that Ren Thumiliated and harassed a much older, vulnerable, homeless person … whose life had been blighted by alcoholism and living on the streets.”

ImJayStation fakes his girlfriend’s death

Jason Matthew Ethier, popularly known as ‘ImJayStation’ online, is a former YouTuber who joined the platform in 2015. His content was controversial from the start, frequently showing him allegedly breaking into places.

While some of these stunts turned out to be staged, Eithier had run into trouble with the law for trespassing by 2016. He would go on to get arrested again in 2018 and would be involved in further controversy in 2019 for attempting to contact dead celebrities using Ouija boards and spirit boxes.

However, it was his 2020 scandal that marked the downfall of Eithier’s YouTube career. On January 21, Eithier tearfully told his five million subscribers that his girlfriend, fellow YouTuber Alexia Marano, had been killed by a drunk driver; “She got hit, guys. She’s gone.”

Within the same week, Eithier went on to post a video featuring a memorial made for Marano, before bringing back his paranormal shenanigans and attempting to contact her spirit with a Ouija board.

His reputation for faking videos and baiting viewers for clout caught up to Eithier when fellow content creators began to investigate Marano’s supposed death. YouTuber ‘SomeOrdinaryGamers‘ notably took to X (formerly Twitter) to break the news that Eithier had lied.

“I’ve spent the entire night browsing and checking with police dept in Toronto and Ottawa. No police reports, no local news agencies, and worst of all no family is confirming,” he wrote.

Sure enough, Eithier came clean on January 27 and admitted Marano’s death was in fact a hoax and publicity stunt. His apology was not well received and despite continuing to make content until 2021, all of Eithier’s accounts were ultimately removed by YouTube for breaching their Terms of Service.

Myka Stauffer rehomes adopted son

Myka Stauffer is a former YouTube family vlogger who focused her content on parenting and family life, sharing with hundreds of thousands of followers her family’s experience adopting a toddler, Huxley, from China.

Originally Myka and her husband, James, believed Huxley had a cerebral tumor before eventually learning he had autism level 3 instead. Following the news, Huxley stopped appearing in the family’s videos and fans began to question what happened to him.

First making excuses for Huxley’s absence, Myka and James finally came out with a video revealing they had permanently rehomed their child with another family in May 2020. The couple claimed unspecified behavioral issues were to blame, though viewers quickly assumed Huxley’s autism diagnosis played a part.

Many users of the platform also began to point out that Myka had seemingly used Huxley for content and to encourage subscribers to donate more money to the family. Soon, the Stauffers were facing unprecedented backlash.

Myka and James posted a since-deleted apology video, though reuploads can still easily be found on the platform. The couple was never able to make a comeback and Myka eventually left YouTube, though James continues to run a detailing channel.

Ohio authorities did investigate the family, concluding that Huxley was safe and happy with his new family.

Colleen Ballinger’s ukelele apology

Colleen Ballinger, the YouTuber behind the character Miranda Sings, came under fire in 2023 after multiple former fans accused her of engaging in inappropriate behavior and bullying.

While the claims first surfaced in 2020, former fan Adam McIntyre once again exposed inappropriate conversations he’d allegedly had with the YouTuber in June three years later, explaining he had been 14 at the time. It didn’t take long for other fans to speak about against Ballinger.

After weeks of silence, Ballinger finally addressed the allegations against her… with a ukelele and a 10-minute-long song about hopping on a “toxic gossip train” headed for “manipulation station.”

The bizarre response quickly went viral as viewers simultaneously slammed and mocked Ballinger, and her song was dubbed the “worst apology video ever.”

In turn, she took a four-month hiatus, before attempting to make a comeback in November by apologizing for the “embarrassing” video. While Ballinger continues to post content to this day, her previous popularity has been lost with little sign of it returning anytime soon.

Ruby Franke jailed for child abuse

Ruby Franke was an American vlogger who ran the YouTube channel 8 Passengers, documenting the lives of her Utah family. Included in the videos were her husband, Kevin, and their six children.

After concerning information about Ruby’s punishments for the children came to light, fans demanded an investigation into what they perceived as child abuse and neglect in 2020.

By 2022, Ruby and Kevin had separated and the family YouTube channel was deleted as the mom of six began working as a mental health coach at ConneXions. Soon after, she started a new channel with Jodi Hildebrandt, the counselor who ran ConneXions.

The two offered parenting classes but their brief stint ended on August 30, 2023, when both were arrested and charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse after two of Franke’s children were found “malnourished” with “open wounds.”

On December 18, 2023, Franke pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse and Hildebrandt separately pleaded guilty to four counts of felony aggravated child abuse on December 27. Franke has since been sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.