Logan Paul was blasted on social media this New Year's Eve after he posted a YouTube clip of himself visiting the famous Aokigahara "suicide woods" in Japan – a video that included footage of a man who had recently hanged himself.
The "shock and awe" that Logan later apologised for, however, is nothing new in his brand of social media stunts; it is, in fact, one of the defining characteristics that has made him and his younger brother, Jake, YouTube megastars in the last few years.
The brothers, who collectively have more than 28 million subscribers on the video-sharing site, got their start as breakout stars on the now-defunct platform Vine, where they capitalised on their outrageous antics and bro-ish personalities.
From there, the pair decided to move to Los Angeles from their hometown of Westlake, Ohio, to expand their reach and seek ways to turn an even bigger profit on their already impressive social media enterprise.
"There was real-life opportunity to make a career for ourselves, for the rest of our lives," Jake told the New York Times Magazine last September. "We were working with brands and advertisers. I was, like, 17 years old, making more money than my parents."
Here's everything you need to know about Jake, Logan and how they came to be at the center of this latest Internet outrage.
The brothers have different ways of trying to maximize their reach and influence on the Internet
While older Paul brother Logan once told Business Insider that his ambition is to be "the biggest entertainer in the world," Jake told the New York Times Magazine that he wants to become a "Dr. Dre of social media." As such, the younger Paul brother started a talent label called Team 10 last January that aims to foster talent within young wannabe web stars.
The success of Team 10 led to serious investors, which led to a merchandise line (Fanjoy.co), which led to a legion of devoted fans, better known as "Jake Paulers" or the "Jake Paul Army." (Logan's followers are known as the "Logang.")
The brothers have also leveraged their fame to branch out into other facets of the entertainment industry
At one point, Jake had a recurring role on the Disney Channel sitcom Bizaardvark, but last July, the company cut ties with the YouTube star. The decision came after Jake's jokey, viral track "It's Everyday Bro" hit No. 2 on iTunes in May and cemented his status as a controversial social media personality, with "It's Everyday Bro" ranked at No. 7 of YouTube's most disliked videos. YouTube vloggers uploaded their own videos breaking down why they took issue with the song, including everything from nonsensical lyrics ("It's every day bro, with that Disney Channel flow") to egotistical statements ("And if it weren't for Team 10, then the U.S. would be shitty"). The song drew comparisons to Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Justin Bieber's "Baby."
Most of the brothers' videos revolve around pranks, drama or lighting things on fire
Within the digital microcosm in which Jake and Logan live, there is always drama, be it the tumultuous faux relationship between Jake and Erika Costell, the resident "matriarch" of the Team 10 team, social media beef between the brothers and other YouTube stars, or even just between each other.
Outside of their tongue-in-cheek music videos, their most viewed uploads are largely filmed scenarios in which the brothers instigate drama a la Punk’D or attempt Jackass-style stunts, like strapping firecrackers to a friend’s leg or breathing a fire ball using a mixture of dish soap, butane and cornstarch.
Their stunts and blogs have translated into a net worth of about $11.5 million – each
According to Forbes.com, Logan is easily making $150,000 per Facebook post for brands ranging from Hanes to HBO, and $80,000 per sponsored post on Instagram, and the brothers are among YouTube's highest paid stars, with Logan at No. 4 and Jake at No. 7.
Both Jake and Logan are no strangers to the YouTube apology
Last June, Jake uploaded a video in which he apologised for offending people and pushing boundaries with his stunts, pointing to a lack of mentors and coming of age in the public eye. That same month, he and Logan, whom he'd feuded with on YouTube, apologised to each other in a rap duet titled "I Love You Bro," which has hit more than 100,000 views since it was first uploaded.
Logan's recent apology, for the video depicting a dead body in the Aokigahara forest, came in two waves: the first, a note he posted to Twitter, was widely slammed for being self-promoting and insincere; the second, a video he shared on YouTube, was better received but also struck a too-little, too-late vibe.
"@LoganPaul You're an idiot," Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner tweeted Monday, joining numerous big names in condemning the YouTube star's behaviour. "You're not raising awareness. You're mocking. I can't believe how self-praising your 'apology' is. You don't deserve the success (views) you have. I pray to God you never have to experience anything like that man did."