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Hope of instant fame, fortune spurs shocking content on video sharing sites

This image from YouTube shows a scene from a video uploaded by Daiji Nishisaka, who was arrested.

A prank on YouTube in which a man purposely drops white powder resembling drugs in front of police officers and then runs away recently resulted in the arrest of a Fukui Prefecture couple on suspicion of fraudulent obstruction of business.

The husband, 31-year-old Daiji Nishisaka, went by his online name of "Deijii" and introduced himself as a "social recluse turned rebel" whose goal was to become a top "YouTuber" -- the term for people who upload videos to the top video-sharing site to make money. On Aug. 30, the day the video was uploaded, he wrote on his blog, "My previous prank video on drunk driving didn't climb that much (in terms of views)." "The prank with the stimulants is rising quickly for the first time in a while." In actual fact, before the prank video was deleted, it received over 1.2 million views over the course of about a week.

YouTube, operated by internet giant Google, allows YouTubers to create their own channels. Once a video receives 10,000 views, it is screened, and if the video doesn't violate any of the YouTube terms of service or other restrictions, then ads from major companies and other businesses are displayed with it, and a portion of the advertising fee is paid to the uploader. When asked how much it pays, Google did not provide concrete figures, saying it depends not only on the number of views but by the type and price of the ad.

Information technology journalist Toshiyuki Inoue commented, "Until around 2015, the rate was said to be around 0.1 yen per view, but I've heard that the rate has fallen to about 0.03 yen due to intensifying competition between YouTubers and other factors.

It is unclear how many YouTubers and videos there are. In Japan, most YouTubers are in their 20s or 30s but some young ones are still at elementary school. The top YouTubers are said to make nearly 100 million yen a year, and one of the most popular future occupations cited by children is "YouTuber," according to polls.

Forming a background to this trend is expansion of the video advertising market. According to statistics from IT giant CyberAgent Inc., the size of the market this year is about 117.8 billion yen, roughly double the figure from two years ago. It is again expected to double to 230.9 billion yen in 2020, the year Tokyo holds the Summer Olympic Games.

Vying for views, some people have uploaded shocking content, which has on some occasions sparked criminal cases. Regarding the mindset that drives people to upload shocking videos, Inoue comments, "In addition to making money, people probably want to become famous overnight." He adds, "They probably get the mistaken idea that this is possible online, but it's not as easy as being successful by having impact alone."

Some companies manage YouTubers in the same way as agencies handle celebrities. The company UUUM, Inc., which represents hit YouTubers Hikakin and Hajime Shacho, holds training sessions and explains image rights and copyright issues. It sometimes advises people to delete videos if it judges that they could result in accidents if imitated.

An official at the company comments, "Viewers are critical of videos that have a bad influence on society, and this (the Fukui case) is not viable as a business model from an ethical perspective."

However, there appears to be no prospect of malicious videos disappearing. Google states that it checks videos through both human and computer screening to respond to controversial content, but it is believed that it will be difficult to completely eradicate such content.

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