Jake Paul is notorious for YouTube stunts, beef with other creators, and generally making his neighbors’ life hell. But an investigative video from channel Nerd City argues that some of Paul’s videos aren’t just morally questionable or manipulative: “Jake Paul’s content is illegal to broadcast in most countries he could name,” says Nerd City.
In a 43-minute deep dive, Nerd City — which often examines internet and YouTube creator culture — highlights several disturbing practices. In addition to concerns over sexually exploitative and inappropriate content, Nerd City touches also on Paul’s collaborations with family channels and the use of kids ages 7 or younger for content and merchandise promotion. Most damning, however, is how Paul — whose target audience skews young, anywhere from ages 8 to 18 — markets to children.
In one especially painful example, Nerd City highlights Paul’s video “THE BEST SONG WE’VE MADE YET,” in which the YouTuber relentlessly plugs his merch, tour, music, and more in nearly half of a 14-minute video. “Jake understands and leans into heavy repetition as a principal of advertising … the words are artificially jammed into the sentences he says,” Nerd City says. For those who are too young to buy his products on their own, Paul encourages kids to ask their parents directly — a practice sometimes described “pester power,” which is prohibited in the European Union via the Unfair Commercial Practices (UCP) Directive.
Paul’s practices raise serious questions about regulations around YouTube content aimed at children in America as well. On television, the FCC has strict rules around how much commercial time can be aimed at kids, especially those 12 and younger. TV broadcasters are also not allowed to display website addresses “during or adjacent to a children’s program if products are sold featuring a character in the program, or a program character is used to sell products.”
As influencers become marketing powerhouses, agencies like the FTC have installed regulations to help with ethical problems of transparency. The ecosystem around influencers, and YouTube specifically, however, still requires consideration. Whether he’s promoting new merch immediately after a highly publicized boxing match, or ripping off kids by promising them the perfect path to influencer fame, Paul represents YouTube success. As more kids turn to YouTube for their entertainment, it’s worth considering how that content is served.