Among the many prolific channels on YouTube is bootsmade4crushing (BM4C) which for four years has featured videos of someone using expensive boots to stomp and crush everything from remote-controlled toys to food to boomboxes. Despite a modest 987 subscribers and videos that rarely break a thousand views, BM4C has churned out over 650 clips.
At first glance, the videos tap into the same anarchic, mess-making humour that has turned How To Basic into a YouTube sensation. BM4C’s About page, however, directs dedicated followers to a secret Tumblog filled with much darker fare: videos of live animals being stomped to death. These are the hidden uploads of YouTuber Boots666. Based on posts to the Tumblog and early videos that were uploaded directly to Tumblr’s servers, it seems like Boots666 and BM4C’s are the same person, and someone who kills live animals for sexual gratification.
Crush fetish videos like these are more than just gruesome, appalling, and in violation of YouTube’s platform guidelines. The creation and distribution of “crush” videos involving the harming of animals is illegal — under the US Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 — and punishable by up to seven years in prison. But YouTube seems patently uninterested in keeping these videos off its site. At the very least, it has installed a system that fails to listen to user complaints and prevent offensive and illegal content from resurfacing.
Every minute, around 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. It would require all of Google’s 57,000 full-time employees working ten-hour shifts, seven days a week, to sift through it all. So the onus has fallen to users who are asked to “flag” offensive or harmful content that violates YouTube’s community guidelines. The guidelines specifically prohibit gruesome scenes and call out “violent, graphic, or humiliating fetishes” specifically as content that can be age-restricted or removed entirely depending on its severity.
YouTube says flagged videos are reviewed by a global team (it declined to share how many people are involved) and removed if they are found to be in violation. Accounts with infringing videos are given “strikes”, which can result in a variety of penalties impacting what they can do on the platform, or terminated outright. YouTube declined to state how many accounts it terminates.
Last year, Boots666 received one or more of these strikes and, after presumably being reviewed by YouTube, his ability to upload new videos was temporarily revoked, according to a post on his blog. Four months later, he went right back to uploading clips showing frogs, snails, and insects being crushed to death.
It’s far from the first time YouTube has failed to enforce its own guidelines, as the Sam Pepper scandal and resulting fallout against other “prank” channels showed. The channels featured people groping (re-uploaded), verbally harassing (73 million views), or exposing their genitals (3 million views) to women in public, and many were allowed to stay up despite YouTube’s harassment policies calling “sexual harassment or sexual bullying in any form” unacceptable.
A quick search for “kissing strangers prank” still reveals several channels with depictions of sexual harassment. If they’re actors, there’s no note clarifying that it’s been staged.
Most recently, a number of high-profile YouTubers complained about prankster SoFloAntonio (1.8 million subscribers), whose channel included sexualised thumbnail images and the words GONE SEXUAL at the end of his video titles, which put him on the wrong side of the platform’s misleading content and sexual content guidelines. He was also frequently accused — most memorably by H3H3 Productions (1 million subscribers) — of re-uploading content from other creators. SoFlo was briefly banned in January, but the majority of his accounts were reinstated soon after.
And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of more overt pornography on the platform, and the communities that work to find it and keep it available, like Reddit’s r/youtubetitties (38k subscribers). The people who would seek out videos like these are the exact people least likely to report them. There’s no real incentive for the user to flag content, and as the case of BM4C illustrates, no guarantee of decisive action on the platform’s part.
Based on the subscriptions listed in BM4C’s profile (pictured above), YouTube has lots crush videos and related fetish uploaders, all with around his level of popularity. Granted, most crushers aren’t spending their days murdering living creatures. Like any kink, the majority of participants don’t do anything illegal. “I don’t find crushing of living animals arousing at all. I prefer objects (car interior, furniture, electronics),” another crush fetishist told Gizmodo via Tumblr message. But when asked where he finds crush content, his immediate response was YouTube. It’s impossible to know how many of the other channels may be hiding videos showing gruesome animal deaths.
What underpins most user frustration with slow response time and the inability to enforce guidelines is the knowledge that YouTube is, for the vast majority of creators, the only game in town—with a less cryptic path to making money than Vimeo and fewer requirements than Twitch.
When Gizmodo tried to contact BM4C for comment, he (not surprisingly) deleted his Tumblr posts and wrote that he had “taken down” the Boots666 videos. The videos aren’t actually deleted, though. They’re just marked as private — possibly so they can be reposted them at a later date. YouTube declined to comment on the record.
Update: Not long after this piece was run on Gizmodo US, the boots666 channel appeared to be terminated, though it’s unclear if this was done by the user or YouTube.