When online vloggers go too far with video pranks
YouTube prankster Sam Pepper is the latest internet celebrity who has come clean about their online life; so are we now seeing the start of a far more honest approach to video blogging? Katie Wright investigates
At the end of February, after more than five years on YouTube, Sam Pepper deleted all his videos, replacing them with one 20-minute missive titled: "I'm sorry."
"I can't go on making videos unless I make this video for you guys," the 26-year-old said, admitting: "I've been acting like a complete idiot online... putting forward a character I've created."
That character, he claims, is responsible for a pair of pranks that caused uproar both on and offline.
In 2014, after the "Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank" video, in which Pepper used a fake arm to disguise the fact he was groping women, several women came forward and alleged Pepper had sexually harassed them (he later claimed the video was part of a "social experiment").
Then, at the end of last year, Pepper teamed up with Colby of YouTube duo Sam and Colby to dupe devastated Sam into believing his best friend had been murdered in front of him. "Of course it was fake," Pepper says in his apology video, but it fooled viewers and enraged many, who thought the vlogger had gone too far.
A petition was started to ban the offending channel and a member of the Anonymous hackers group threatened to unleash "hell" on Pepper if he didn't remove it.
Two months after the misguided stunt, they've got their wish, as LA-based Pepper, who started vlogging after appearing on Big Brother UK in 2010, says he's done with pranks for good and will only be posting positive and inspiring clips.
"Please give me a second chance and I'll prove to you I can make content that represents me as a person, that inspires," he asks - in what does seem like a genuine apology, not a knee-jerk reaction, or a mere half-hearted attempt to pacify angry viewers. So, are we seeing the start of a digital revolution, as the "internet famous" reveal the awkward truth behind their greatest hits?
It would be brilliant if that were the case, but while outrageous gags and filtered-to-oblivion photos continue to garner millions of followers, fame and financial rewards, it's very unlikely.
The internet is full of fakers, it's just that most of them don't get caught, or feel the need to confess.
Real-life allegations aside, it's heartening to see Sam Pepper owning up to his mistakes, but don't expect a host of other vloggers to follow suit anytime soon.