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The KSI and Logan Paul fight is result of YouTube’s algorithm



KSI Logan Paul
YouTubers Logan Paul and


  • Two of the biggest YouTubers on the planet, KSI and
    Logan Paul, will fight each other in a boxing match on
  • YouTube boxing matches are a weird new trend and it’s
    all because creators have to make ever-more extreme content for
    views and revenue.
  • KSI and Logan Paul are both controversial creators who
    have pushed the boundaries of taste, and their fame has only
    been possible because YouTube is so unregulated.
  • Digital culture expert Amelia Tait says there shouldn’t
    be a “moral panic” about the fight, but says the nature of
    YouTube fame means that it takes sex, violence, or hate to get

On Saturday 25 August, two YouTube stars will fight each other in
a 21,000-capacity arena in Manchester, UK, despite neither being
a professional fighter.

British vlogger KSI, real name Olajide Olatunji,
will slug it out against American rival Logan Paul
. They are
two of the most famous YouTubers of all time, thought to be
earning millions from ads against channels boasting hundreds of
millions of views.

They’ll be adding to their wealth come Saturday, when they will
be charging viewers £7/$8 to livestream the fight on YouTube, as
well as charging real-life attendees up to £150 ($192) for

It’s insane to think that a platform once beloved for comical
home videos is now the promotion vehicle for a Hunger Games-style
battle. How did we get here?

Logan Paul
A clip from Logan Paul’s notorious video from Japan’s
suicide forest.


As Amelia Tait, a digital culture journalist who has written
extensively about YouTube, explained to us, this has come about
because of the way YouTube rewards views.

She explained that the big early change to YouTube came when it
delegated the responsibility of choosing the top videos on its
site from humans to an algorithm.

“[It] only showcases the top ‘Trending’ videos,” she told us.
“Trending videos have to gain a lot of views in a short period of
time, so this algorithm has essentially encouraged people to get
more extreme with their content.

“You’re no longer going to get famous for doing a science trick
or a spoken word poem… Unless you’re already a celebrity
releasing a new music video, sex, violence, and hate are the
fastest ways to get noticed on YouTube.”


Understanding how boxing matches play into this involves
understanding the evolution of another weird YouTube trend: Beef.

Beef involves two or more YouTubers getting into some kind of
dispute, then playing that up with songs, or “diss tracks,” and,
now, physical fights. More often than not, it’s all concocted

Gaming site Polygon did some back-of-the-envelope calculation and

it looks like beef is a pretty profitable enterprise
. The
site calculated that Jake Paul, brother of Logan Paul, probably
made around $2 million from his diss track about fellow YouTuber
PewDiePie, “It’s Everyday Bro,” because it had millions of views.

Imagine how many more millions both YouTubers would make if
PewDiePie fought Jake Paul. Real-life boxing matches are the
profitable, logical evolution of beef — and that might help
the extreme theatrics that have preceded the fight
. Paul
stormed out of a press conference last month after KSI hurled
insults about his actress girlfriend Chloe Bennet, and an
accident in which Paul injured his testicles.


KSI and Logan Paul, though huge, are also extremely
controversial. If either worked a normal television job, both
would have been fired instantly for their antics.

KSI’s entire persona centres on being abrasive. He even published
a book titled “I Am a Bellend.” He was banned from the Eurogamer
conference after making misogynistic jokes, and has been
for trivialising rape
. In the normal, regulated entertainment
world, he would be persona non grata.

Logan Paul, meanwhile,
became notorious for filming himself next to an apparent suicide
in Japan
. It cost him in advertising and partnerships, but
was far from a career-ender.

YouTube is fairly opaque and it’s hard to know definitively who
watches KSI or Logan Paul videos. But there’s anecdotal evidence
that the audience is very young — younger than YouTube
technically allows.

A cursory search on Twitter shows one British parent trying to
buy tickets to the Manchester fight for her eight-year-old son.
YouTube stipulates that its viewers must be 13 years old, but
that’s obviously not stopping some fans.

Children’s TV presenter Ed Petrie
argued earlier this year that YouTube’s unregulated nature is
The popularity of YouTubers with children
coincided, he said, with underinvestment in kids’ TV. The result
is that millions of young fans see unsuitable content like Logan
Paul’s suicide body video before public pressure means it’s

In the case of the real-life fight, it’s probably too late for
YouTube to step in.

“When it comes to the livestream, as YouTube is going to profit
from that directly, there should definitely be some kind of
viewer discretion warning,” Tait said.

She added: “Although on the whole I believe that YouTube fails in
its responsibilities to regulate the platform, in this instance I
would say the onus is with the parents to check what their kids
are watching.”

Business Insider approached YouTube for comment.

We’ve written before about how the trash talk between the two
may be overstepping the mark
. KSI has hurled insults at
Paul’s girlfriend and family, and encouraged fans at a press
conference to chant “F**k the Pauls.” It’s not exactly
sportsman-like behaviour.

According to Tait, there shouldn’t be “a moral panic” around the
fight. And the real world event might even encourage some fans to
bond over a shared interest.

But, she added: “It’s hard to see how a culture which rewards
extreme behaviour with YouTube fame and money won’t encourage
children to follow suit.

“It’s not so much that kids will physically fight each other for
internet fame, it’s more that the internet now profits off
hate… Something silly like 30% of children would like to be a
YouTuber, so if being a YouTuber becomes associated with
spreading hate, some children will certainly imitate that.”

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