YouTube is no stranger to controversy. In the last few years, some of the craziest things have happened on the platform that have sparked outrage in the entire world. With Logan Paul’s shenanigans in Japan, or Pewdiepie’s all out war with the Wall Street Journal, YouTube stars have definitely given their fair share of scandals to the world. But some of those scandals definitely stand out as being unusual and completely random, which make it all more surprising than your average internet frenzy. From backfiring anger and crazy plot twists, to unpredictable emotional outbursts and dark mysteries, here are 10 bizarre YouTube controversies that shocked people:
14 years ago, in June 2006, a friendly 16 year-old girl named Bree Avery (more commonly known as Lonelygirl15) began to post videos to YouTube. In them, she is simply sitting in front of her webcam and talking to the audience. Nothing out of the ordinary (especially in 2006), but Bree’s likeable antics made her the very first viral YouTube stars. People loved her for her authenticity and relatable personality, and she seemed to have a great time exploring her world and talking about it in her videos. She was an absolute phenomenon in the early days of internet culture.
So imagine the shock when, a few months later, people found out that Lonelygirl15 did not actually exist.
The story of Lonelygirl15 is often said to be the first YouTube scandal ever. It turns out that Bree Avery was a fictional character played by 19 year-old actress Jessica Rose, and every single video she had posted had been written and meticulously directed by three California filmmakers to look like an authentic video diary. In a surprising event for the time, mainstream media picked up the story, with the New York Times even going on a special investigation to unmask the people behind it all, but the web series ended up continuing and even spawned a number of spin-offs, up until its end in 2008.
9 Kristian Harloff & The Collider Live Meltdown
Kristian Haloff is a YouTube personality behind a number of internet communities. He co-created Schmoes Know, the Collider Live daily show, and he even was a major part of the popular Collider Movie Talk for years. He is also a devoted Star Wars fan who solidified his place in the fandom with his weekly show “Jedi Council”, in which he broke down news about the franchise with a variety of co-hosts. But Kristian is also known for having a very strange temper and engaging in toxic behaviours against anyone who dared to criticize him, and it was made very clear when he had a completely random meltdown live on air during one of his shows.
When he found out that he wasn’t invited to an exclusive visit at the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge theme park in 2019, and later heard that another reporter at Collider was going instead of him, Harloff threw a literal fit and declared live on air that he would not be covering anything related to Galaxy’s Edge on any of his shows. He ranted about his status in the Star Wars community online with his Jedi Council show, claiming “I’ve been busting my ass being a Star Wars fan for five years.”
That did not fly with the producer of the show, Thadd Williams, who immediately grabbed a microphone and put Harloff in his place by reminding him that the show belonged to Collider and that he would be addressing Collider’s coverage of Galaxy’s Edge, wether he wanted it or not. Harloff immediately exploded on him in a full on temper tantrum, and the two proceeded to verbally attack each other for minutes on end, with everyone else in the show awkwardly sitting there in silence.
In the following days, Harloff was absolutely blasted by the entire world, and was even called out by Star Wars writers on Twitter, who accused him of acting like a “spoiled child who didn’t get his toy”. Some even accused him of being sexist for being angry about women being sent to Galaxy’s Edge instead of him, and he was essentially written off as a representation of everything wrong with the Star Wars fandom, and why Star Wars fans can’t ever be taken seriously. The backlash was so intense that Kristian had to apologize more than once on air, admitting that his reaction was immature, entitled and embarrassing.
8 Motoki vs Math Podcast
This particular controversy has been fascinating to many, because it involves creators from two different cultures. Motoki is an Asian-American creator, and Math Podcast is French. Both are very successful, but they seemingly have nothing to do with one another. They shouldn’t have anything to do with one another. But, in 2016, some fans discovered in the strangest way that they had more in common than anyone could’ve thought.
Over time, more and more people started to notice that Math’s videos were very similar to Motoki’s. A bit too similar even. In fact, they were the same. To the word, to the second, and sometimes, to the shot. People realized that Math had plagiarized every single one of Motoki’s videos by translating them to French and reshooting them the exact same way, giving Motoki no credit whatsoever and making his French audience believe that he was the creator behind it all. He would sometimes even steal shots from the original videos and seamlessly reedit them into his versions.
In February 2016, Motoki ended up speaking up about this, confirming that Math had never asked for his permission to remake his videos. Both American and French media took on the story, and condemned Math for his actions — he had built a highly successful career by stealing Motoki’s work, and he decided to take action. Naturally, Math’s career crashed before he could even say “oops”, and despite numerous apologies and attempts to reinvent his channel over the years, he never recovered from the scandal and has now completely vanished from YouTube.
7 Olivia Jade
At first glance, Olivia Jade is your average teenage social media influencer and YouTube star. She has had an audience for a while, her content is harmless, and nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. Except, of course, for the fact that Olivia is the daughter of the disgraced “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Gianulli, who were recently sentenced to 2 and 5 months in prison, after pleading guilty to charges of bribery fraud.
Olivia reportedly helped her parents forge an extracurricular file after they paid over half a million dollars in bribes to get their daughter accepted at the University Of Southern California, ahead of any other (more deserving) students who applied for admission. When the scandal was exposed and lawsuits started to rain, Olivia was promptly dropped by the major brands that endorsed her (including Amazon, Sephora and TRESemmé), and she was essentially been banished from the Internet, resulting in a year long hiatus that led her to a 2020 apology press tour that has been poorly received.
6 Tanacon: The Biggest Ego Trip in Internet History
Tana Mongeau is a creator that is known for her eccentric personality, having become famous for her crazy (and often proven to be fake) “story time” videos on YouTube. Just like many problematic creators on the platform, her ego is her primary drive in life, and that assessment was never made more clear than on the day Tana decided to create her own convention, Tanacon.
When the massive Vidcon event refused to invite her as a featured creator for their 2018 edition, Tana decided to get back at them by launching her own free convention on the same day as Vidcon, and across the street from them. The problem was that Tana widely underestimated the implications, and was incredibly unprepared for the challenge. What ensued was an absolute train wreck that left thousands of people waiting in front of a full venue in brutal heat, without food or water, even resulting in people having to be sent to the ER in ambulances. The police had to intervene and give numerous statements on the situation and, due to the catastrophe it had turned into, the 3-day event was cancelled before the end of its first day.
It was later revealed that Tanacon was also a scam, as Tana and her team had advertised the event as being free, except for people who wanted VIP tickets, but it then came to light that it was a lie, and that every person present at the event had been a purchased VIP ticket, due to the website showing that free tickets had been sold out. The fallout from the scandal created a frenzy that resulted in lawsuits, companies going bankrupt and a number of documentaries going back on the event, with hours of footage from people who were actually there on the day of the debacle.
5 The Brooke Houts Incident
Brooke Houts is a name that inspires immediate anger to those who know it. A creator on YouTube since 2014, Brooke became better known after adopting a puppy named Sphinx, who became the biggest attraction on her channel, bringing her thousands upon thousands of viewers. She was exhibiting a fun and cheeky lifestyle with Sphinx and people loved her for it. But that was until August 2019, when Brooke posted a seemingly normal video, in which she (unfortunately for her) did not realize that she had forgotten to edit out some disturbing images she clearly had not intended for anyone to see…
The uncut footage shows Brooke repeatedly punching Sphinx and shoving him around as he tries to play with her while she talks to the camera. As he accidentally interrupts her during her outro, she grabs him, pins him to the ground, yells at him to stop, before spitting on him. The part ends with Brooke slapping Sphinx one last time, prompting him to walk away off screen, audibly whining out of fear as she walks towards him.
The world, the media and Brooke’s former fans erupted in a mighty rage, tearing her to shreds online and calling for her to be arrested for animal cruelty. The police actually listened and opened an investigation on Brooke, and she later attempted to apologize on YouTube, unsuccessfully. Her career completely vanished in less than 24 hours, and while she has tried many times to make a comeback following it all, she has been brutally rejected every single time, prompting her to disappear again.
4 JayStation: YouTube’s Ghostbuster
JayStation is considered to be the very worst of YouTube. He has been called out numerous times by other creators for being toxic, manipulative and creepy. YouTube even blacklisted his channel, and eventually deleted it, forcing him to migrate to a new one. Many people still wonder why he is allowed to be on YouTube at all. Why? All of that for one simple reason: in 2019, JayStation decided to fake his girlfriend’s death for views.
He actually tried to make his audience (which is mostly constituted of children) believe that his girlfriend Alexia Marano had died in a brutal car crash, and that he was grieving her loss. He even built a fake crash site on the side of a road to show where she died. The grim video series was leading towards Jay attempting to “talk to her spirit”, but he never made it there. Thousands of people called him out, eventually forcing him to admit he was lying.
Alexia later revealed to be a victim of domestic abuse, claiming that Jay regularly bullied her and forced her to do things for the sake of getting views and subscribers on YouTube. The allegations eventually led to Jay being arrested and charged for assault with a weapon. He has since returned to YouTube and posts regularly, but JayStation will always be remembered by the public as the creep who faked his girlfriend’s death for fame.
3 Jenna Marbles: The Last Pioneer
Jenna Mourey, better known to the world as Jenna Marbles, is arguably one of the biggest YouTube stars to ever be on the platform. She is the female YouTuber with the largest amount of subscribers ever, with over 20 million viewers on her channel. Jenna is considered to be a true pioneer and legend of YouTube culture, and a positive role model that people (kids and adults alike) have been glad to look up to. However, in 2020, Jenna became the greatest example of what happens when the toxicity of cancel culture backfires.
Despite the fact that Jenna is an extremely loveable human being with great values, some people took issues with jokes she made almost a decade ago, that were deemed by many to be racist and offensive. But, weirdly enough, that wasn’t the controversial part. The controversy that everyone talked about came a few days later when Jenna released an emotional video to acknowledge and apologize for the jokes, in which she explained that she never meant to hurt anyone and that there are no excuses for her jokes. And then, to everyone’s absolute shock, she announced that she was quitting YouTube for good, after 10 years of weekly videos.
No one saw this coming, and the internet went into a frenzy. Even the people who were actively cancelling her seemed to be distraught by her sudden departure, and while some thought that she would be back after a couple of weeks, Jenna’s channel is still abandoned today, over seven months later, along with all of her social media profiles. Nobody actually expected her to leave, and the sadness and scandal that came with the departure of one of YouTube culture’s original pioneers even peaked the attention of mainstream media outlets, who covered the story for weeks on end.
2 The Myka Stauffer Family Scandal
Family lifestyle channels have become their own genre of YouTube content over the years, and they are often subject to debates when it comes to the ethical choices of parents who willingly exhibit every aspect of their children’s lives (private or not) to millions of people. But no creators on the platform have ever made people question those morals more than Myka Stauffer, a mother of 5 with a successful YouTube channel, who completely destroyed her career in 2020 when the shady circumstances of an adoption blew up in her face.
When Myka and her husband decided to adopt a child from China, audiences were thrilled, and their channel got much bigger as they documented every single step of the adoption process for everyone to see. They eventually got to bring a young autistic boy home, and they documented his new life as well, and more and more people enjoyed watching Myka as she exhibited the difficulty of being a parent to a child with such a condition. It kept going for a while, until one day, some viewers started to notice that the child had suddenly vanished from the channel.
Despite acting like everything was normal in the videos, every member of the family kept appearing, except for the adopted child. People started to question Myka relentlessly, and, after weeks of speculation, Myka and her husband released a video where they confirmed to the audience that their adopted son had been re-homed after two years of living with them, because they were no longer capable of dealing with his autism.
An absolute outrage ensued, and Myka was accused of having adopted the boy for the sake of getting views online, and having abandoned her own son when he was no longer profitable for their channel. She was continuously blamed for using the child as a prop, with many pointing to her various sponsorship deals that had to do with the adoption. Myka later released a statement, in which she explained to have underestimated her son’s condition, and admitted to have been arrogant, naive and brutally unprepared to take care of a child with special needs.
Myka lost all of her precious brand deals, as she was dropped by every company she was working with. The police opened an investigation on the matter, and talks about potential lawsuits against the couple have been brought up. Myka’s YouTube channel has been completely abandoned since, and we have not heard from her since her official statement.
1 The Mysterious Case Of Marina Joyce
To this day, Marina Joyce is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of YouTube, and there are still many questions hovering around her story. She started as a sweet and quirky fashion centred creator, at times touching on comedy with fun sketches. Marina was never exactly YouTube’s elite, but she had garnered a sizeable audience over the years, and her community seemed to thrive in her intimate world of light-hearted content. But then… things took a turn, and Marina Joyce quickly became a name that piqued the curiosity of the entire world.
In 2016, Marina’s content slowly started to change, in a way that began to make her fans ask questions. People noticed that she was losing weight at an alarming rate, and her mannerisms and body language became incredibly strange, almost robotic (frantic blinking, awkward hand gestures, broken speech patterns, etc). Her personality did a complete 180, going from friendly and bubbly to strangely formal and creepy. Her audience started to worry about her safety, some believing she was suffering from a serious drug addiction, but it all came to a head when she posted an especially disturbing video on July 2nd, 2016.
The creepy video, simply titled “Date Outfit Ideas”, sees Marina show off different outfits she likes for a first date. Innocent in concept, but everything about it feels incredibly off — Marina looks confused and lost, continuously rambling and repeating herself while twirling around to show her dresses. Her arms are covered in harsh bruises, as well as her back. Furthermore, there seems to be someone behind the camera telling her what to do, which often seems to distract her as she talks. And, in a final show of suspiciousness, we can hear her whisper “help me” in a quick musical passage.
The video instantly went viral all around the world, and the now famous #SaveMarinaJoyce became one of the most talked about stories in the media. Theories began to circulate about Marina’s situation for weeks on end, going from kidnapping scenarios to a hostage situation. But nothing came of it. On her end, Marina simply continued to post extremely disturbing videos, as if everything was fine, completely ignoring the millions of people commenting and tweeting about her. Many believed that she was leaving secret messages to ask for help, and thousands of people began to investigate and analyze every second of her videos.
Eight months later, after a quick hiatus from YouTube, Marina released a new video titled “Saving Marina Joyce”, in which she thanked people for being concerned about her well being, and explained that she indeed went through a traumatic event that changed her life and destroyed her mind, causing her to drastically change and lose herself in the process, even admitting “there was danger in her life” at some point. She also explained that she had been on a recovery path for a few months, and that life was much better for her now, which people were relieved to hear, as she indeed looked better and more “normal” in the video. While she never fully told what happened to her that triggered such a change, everyone seemed happy with her explanation, and the world moved on. But it wasn’t the end of it.
Two years later, on July 31st, 2019, at the age of 22 years old, Marina Joyce mysteriously went missing. The circumstances of her disappearance were extremely foggy. The police got involved, even asking for the public’s help to search, and Marina was found in London after 10 days, confirmed to be “safe and well”. The authorities did not give any explanation about the whole situation (despite her boyfriend claiming that Marina was never missing, which did not make sense), and, just like in 2016, the story eventually went away with very little information being revealed to the public.
Since then, Marina has returned to YouTube, regularly making videos with her boyfriend, and everyone seems to have left her story behind. Her community seems to have moved on as well, and people usually compliment her on seeming better and happier. But, to this day, no one knows what actually happened to Marina Joyce.