Going viral: When YouTube stunts turn deadly

By Clement Edward Kumsah
"They were in love, they loved each other," Pedro Ruiz's aunt said of the aspiring YouTubers

Monalisa Perez, 19, and her boyfriend Pedro Ruiz, 22, wanted to be famous on YouTube.

But until a dramatic stunt on 26 June involving a gun and a hardcover book that left Pedro dead, there was little indication in their videos how far they were prepared to go in order to attain online celebrity.
The couple from the US state of Minnesota had been uploading videos for less than two months documenting their everyday lives.

Though they had filmed some minor pranks - Monalisa dusting a donut with baby powder before feeding it to Pedro, for example - they seemed relatively harmless.

In one video filmed in a hospital, they learn their new baby is going to be a boy.
"Imagine when we have 300,000 subscribers," Monalisa pondered in a video uploaded at a fun fair on the day Pedro was killed. "People will be like 'oh my god, hi!'"
Now she faces a second-degree manslaughter charge over a reckless stunt that was said to be her boyfriend's idea to boost their profile. She fired a Desert Eagle handgun from close range, as he held an encyclopaedia in front of his chest.
He had experimented previously and thought the thick book would protect him, but the couple's three-year-old child and nearly 30 onlookers watched as she fired a fatal bullet.

Of course, YouTube has no borders, and stunt videos from anywhere can go viral globally.

Russia's Interior Ministry recently launched a "safe selfie" campaign in response to a growing local culture of amateur daredevils filming their stunts.

In one video watched by millions of people, Alexander Chernikov lights his trousers on fire and jumps off a nine-storey building into the snow.
These kinds of stunts make the antics of TV pranksters from a pre-YouTube era, like those of the MTV reality show Jackass, seem tame.

Critics say that YouTube, owned by Google, needs to do more to take down videos of extremely dangerous stunts.
The company said it was "horrified to learn of the tragedy in Minnesota" and that its thoughts were with the family. No video of the incident is believed to have been uploaded.

A spokesperson told the BBC that it removes content flagged by users that breaks its rules.
Its policy on harmful and dangerous content says it draws the line at content "that intends to incite violence or encourage dangerous or illegal activities that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death".

Examples of what would be banned include videos depicting "bomb making, choking games, hard drug use, or other acts where serious injury may result".


Credit: BBC