What responsibility do social influencers have when it comes to the best interests of their audiences?

This article was originally published on Mumbrella.

As Australian YouTuber Influencer’s audiences size grow rapidly, Ashleigh Bruton, Senior Strategist at The Remarkables Group, ask what duty of care do influencers have to their audience.

There was a major YouTube incident over the last week you may not be aware of. But I guarantee, if you have children over the age of 11 at home, or sub 25 year olds on your team, they know all about it. Ask them now.

Logan Paul is a highly recognisable face on YouTube. He has amassed a YouTube audience of over 15 million subscribers and has partnered with brands such as PepsiCo, Disney, HBO, Dunkin Donuts. All have sense denounced him.

For those not familiar with what happened, on a trip to Japan, Logan visited the infamous Aokigahara, or as is its commonly known the Suicide Forest. During his 15-minute vlog of this trip, he stumbled across a man who had committed suicide. A shocking event for anybody to have to come across, instead of turning his camera off, he can be seen yelling at the deceased body ‘Yo, are you alive?’ and then laughing hysterically. Logan then uploaded it with the title ‘WE FOUND A DEAD BODY’ to his YouTube channel which is home subscribers, mostly between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. The video received 6 million views within 8 hours of the upload.

Whether you are an Instagrammer, YouTuber or blogger or have any sort of social following on any channel, you have power. You have the power to infiltrate the homes of every single one of your followers. Some use this power very wisely, and some are still very much in the mentality of ‘doing it for the vine’. This past week YouTuber Logan Paul has come to realise exactly how much influence he had and how far the reach of his actions would take him.

Large levels of influence are no longer reserved for a handful of US based influencers. Prominent Australian based fitness and health YouTuber, Sarah’s Day, celebrated reaching half a million followers over the Christmas.

The backlash Logan received caused him to remove the video after it had been live for 8 hours and then issue a first apology, rather ghastly apology. His second apology, was a 1 minute 45 second video, receiving 40 million views, was then monetised. YouTube was slow to respond to this and only very recently said they would be cutting professional ties with Logan Paul.

This controversy has raised a very important question of what responsibilities lie with influencers when creating content for their audience. Influencers are experts at navigating their audiences and connecting with consumers on an emotional level.  As role models who are influencing the lives and thoughts of young people, this never should have happened. Suicide is an issue becoming more and more prevalent, particularly around young males and has touched the lives of many people who were emotionally affected by this.

The popular Australian blogger Woogsworld tweeted her 12-year-old son was lying in bed crying with her after watching the video where you can clearly see the lifeless body. The effects of this video were felt world-wide and there were many young children and teenagers who as a result of this video either learnt what suicide was or saw an actual dead body for the first and hopefully only time.

Influencers, whether their audience is significant or small, impact the lives of everybody who watches their content. They do have a responsibility to ensure what they are publishing is not harmful or offensive. It is my hope for the future other young influencers such as Logan Paul will realise the force their content can have and will fully understand the responsibility they carry for their audience.

On a positive note, this is a good opportunity to talk to any young people in your life about the topic of suicide. It is a devastating circumstance to happen to anyone and their families. And if anything should arise, there is some important services to help such as Life Line on 13 11 14.