Anything for views: From the daring to the stupid

Obsession with likes and views on social media. [iStockphoto]

On March 11th, American-Lebanese YouTuber Addison Pierre Maalouf posted on X (formerly Twitter) that he was "going on another one of those trips. If I die, thanks for watching what I’ve put out. If I live, all glory to God.”

Three days later, on March 14th, he was allegedly kidnapped by a gang in Haiti.

Maalouf, who goes by YourFellowArab, was said to have been held for a ransom of $600,000 (about Sh78m). It was alleged that he was on a mission to interview dangerous warlord Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Cherizier.

Maalouf, who was later released, makes videos where he tries to interrogate the operations of criminal organizations and gangs.

“He enjoys doing interviews with bad people; let’s put it that way,” his father, Pierre Maalouf, said.

Dangerous, but maybe understandably, then there are the simply ridiculous.

In the UK, a young lady called ‘Miss Mizzy’ became famous, then infamous, and subsequently arrested for punching total strangers for social media views.

There is a content creator for everything and anything, eating, travelling, exercising, singing, dancing, and even just staring at the camera. There are so many pranks running this world, to the point where there are accounts just compiling the best pranks out there.

We live in the truest era of content, and every sunrise, millions of mostly young people try different ways to get eyeballs from billions of people who have access to gadgets and data.

Picture this: you are walking in town, minding your own business. Then two guys, one recording a video on a phone, and another holding a tiny microphone, approach you to ask personal questions about your sex life, exes, or even quiz, at times, with a promise of a monetary reward.

Or you are in the office, suffering under the weight of untouched files, when suddenly, David Moya walks in holding flowers, a cake, and a champagne bottle to dance for you because he’s being paid to do so.

David, who was the most followed TikToker with about 4.7 million followers before he lost the account, is one of the most viral creators, starting as a random dancer who appeared on unsuspecting Kenyans, to dance and hand them flowers.

Moya David. [Instagram]

It was initially all cringe stuff, seeing people go through the motions of wondering what the dancing young, fit man with a white hairband was doing, before slowly warming up to the surprise.

Speaking on Obina Show Live, David Moya revealed that he was once paid Sh830,000 by a South Sudanese individual for a surprise dance in Dubai.

On how much the former cleaner and portrait artist charges, he explained, “I have a separate package for within Nairobi, slightly outside Nairobi, outside Nairobi, and a global package.”

“Some of what we do is scripted,” said Kapelo, an upcoming content creator and student, whose content revolves around vox pop-style awkward situations. “I just started this year, so to push my content, I get a few people to participate but pretend it was random.”

Kapelo, who is studying nursing, would ‘randomly’ stop people and ask awkward questions that put people at edge. He is tall, dark, and commanding, and, strangely enough, most of those he interviews are ladies.

“Guys are arrogant, not fun, and untrustworthy.”

With fame an undeclared drug, people are unearthing unique ways to get famous every day.

While some of the pranks are fun and don’t require much from those caught unawares, some pranksters are playing dangerous games, with what they do borderline illegal, intrusive, and disregarding personal space and approval.

In April 2023, social media blew up after content creator Miss Trudy was apprehended by security officers at Moi International Airport, Mombasa, for filming.

In the video, Miss Trudy could be seen angry and uncontrollable as she questioned the management of the airport for what she called an intrusion on her rights.

"We got arrested for filming at the Airport! This is getting out of control! We have the right to create content without intimidation!” she wrote on social media.

With all the furore, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) explained why she had been ‘apprehended’, explaining, "She was filming near the screening area, which is not allowed. What the officer did was to inform her that it was not allowed politely.”

And it’s not just here.

Over in Uganda, 27-year-old Ibrahim Musana, who runs an account called Pressure Pressure on TikTok, was arrested for allegedly abusing the Kabaka and other kingdom officials in his videos.

According to the police, through police spokesperson Fred Enanga, Musana was arrested for defamation, promoting hate speech, and incitement to violence using his social media platforms.

With every scale in life, there is always the good, the bad, and the ugly. While some pranksters do simple, safe things like test your general knowledge questions, some have taken it too far.

Dangerous dares, physically exhaustive attempts, trying the unthinkable, and so on, some of these attempts have ended fatally.

In 2021, Timothy Wilks, a then 20-year-old, was shot dead while taking part in a ‘prank’ robbery being filmed for YouTube.

According to witnesses, Timothy and a friend had approached a group of people outside a family trampoline park in Nashville, holding large knives, when a 23-year-old shot Timothy, telling police he had had no idea it had been a ‘prank’.

In May 2023, Indian YouTuber Agastay Chauhan died while riding his Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R at 294 kmph on Yamuna Expressway, coming from Agra to Delhi.

A popular motorbike rider with over 1.2 million subscribers on his 'Pro Rider 1000' channel, he had informed his followers that he was headed to Delhi to "… take it to 300 kmph and see if it can go beyond that.”

But with content being king now more than ever before, what is the line between harassment and authenticity of the content?

What is the role of consent in participating in these pranks? Can one sue for intrusion if the information given leads to devastating consequences?

Mugambi Laibuta, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, cites the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, 2018, as a source of understanding cyber harassment.

In his piece ‘Cyber-bullying under Kenyan law’, he quotes Section 27 as an attempt to define cyber harassment, with an offence likely to have taken place if another person’s conduct (a) is likely to cause those persons apprehension or fear of violence to them or damage or loss on that person’s property; or (b) detrimentally affects that person; or (c) is in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature and affects the person.

Mugambi goes on to write that while ‘the provision deals with the scourge that is cyber-bullying, unfortunately, the provision is vague.’

For most people who find content creators intrusive, rude, or irritating, physical harm has been the default option.

In January, a young Australian YouTuber called Izanal was slapped in the face after the boyfriend of the lady he was pranking took offence to his intrusion. Izanal’s content is based on asking women who were obviously in a relationship if they were 'single'.

Popular prankster Nick Bigfish, who successfully ran Naswa as one of the best prank shows in Kenya, and later participated in Churchill Live with Rib Krakaz, was in March 2020 beaten and hospitalized when a prank went wrong.

His friend and funny man Dj Shiti summed it up when he posted, “Our boy today had a bad day in the office... guys manze no matter how stressful you are hapo kwa street usipige Msanii...”


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