Another YouTube "Prank" Has Turned Deadly

Em Unravelling

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Photo by Wendelin Jacober from Pexels

Just a couple of days ago, a 20-year-old man called Timothy Wilks and a friend decided to film a stunt for YouTube at a family-friendly trampoline park (Urban Air) in Nashville. They were both carrying large butchery knives; they approached a group of people who were visiting the trampoline park, and, well - you can imagine the rest.

Timothy Wilks was shot dead by a 23-year-old man who had not been aware of the filming of the "prank", and who told police he was acting in self-defense.

Two lives, then, ruined in moments over one ill-advised (and not even that funny!) stunt idea. And this despite the fact that YouTube itself updated its terms and conditions in 2019 to ban "dangerous or harmful" pranks. Their terms and conditions actually include the wording:

“Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are likely to result in serious harm, and today clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks.”

This includes pranks where someone is tricked into thinking they are in severe danger, even if no real threat exists. So it seems unlikely that the video would even have been permitted on the site.

The YouTube guidelines were revised in the wake of a stunt in Minnesota in 2017, which saw Monalisa Perez imprisoned for shooting and killing her boyfriend Pedro Ruiz by accident - he had asked her to shoot him, because they both had genuinely believed that the book he was holding would stop a bullet. Of course, they were both wrong, and he lost his life while hers was destroyed. Tragically, she was pregnant with his child at the time.

And yet, the pranks continue. In a constant, ever-more-desperate quest to go viral (with all the money and social media fame that can entail), YouTubers engage in increasingly bizarre stunts.

Some of them are funny, like the cinnamon challenge that saw "hard guys" on the floor and sneezing uncontrollably after trying to eat a spoonful of the sweet seasoning. Some of them are inexplicable, like the 24-hour fidget spinner stunt pulled by famous YouTuber MrBeast. But others are downright dangerous, as this week's Nashville episode demonstrates.

When Mr Wilks was shot and killed, several families were inside the trampoline park, and could have seen and heard the deadly shot. They were inside the park, of course, when Mr Wilks and his friend began their stunt (complete with knives). How could anyone imagine that such a "prank" would ever end in any way other than dangerously?

The investigation continues, but no one has yet been charged in connection with Mr Wilks' death. If the gunman really did act in self-defence - genuinely unaware of the video and genuinely in fear of his life, which seems likely given the presence of the huge knives - then it seems wrong for him to be punished for the killing. And yet he has a life on his conscience, whether or not the law punishes him.

It's a high price to pay for what might have been 30 vaguely amusing YouTube video seconds. But then, the price the attempted prankster paid - his life - was even higher.

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A lover of horizons, hills, and words. Likes to write about uncomfortable things because too many people steer round those parts of life.

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