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Friday 29 August 2014

Online community reacts as YouTube celebrity jailed on child porn charges

YouTube musician had “sexually explicit” digital contact with underage fans.

Published 18/03/2014 | 13:16

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YouTube star ‘Mike Lombardo’ has been jailed for five years on child porn charges, the minimum sentence the judge could have imposed.

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The new media celebrity was jailed for ‘persuading’ underage female fans to send ‘sexually explicit’ pictures and videos.

In a pre-sentence report, Lombardo told his probation officers that he was “friendless” and “depended on online relationships”, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamara Thomson.

He pleaded guilty in September to eleven counts involving female fans aged between 15 and 17 and is now required to register as a convicted sex offender.

Several creators have come out against Lombardo.

Lombardo’s ex-girlfriend Haley G. Hoover blogged about the singer’s arrest, describing him as an “expert manipulator” with “an unhealthy and confusing attitude towards sex”, adding that she believes “every word” of what the singer was accused of.

Several other high-profile YouTube musicians and vloggers have also been accused of ‘coercing’ and ‘manipulating’ fans. All have denied any underage involvement but two have admitted to situations where they placed “pressure” on fans in relation to sexual activity.

Mike Lombardo was signed to ‘DFTBA Records’, a music label and merchandise manufacturer that primarily represents YouTube stars, owned by Hank Green and Alan Lastufka. Hank is one half of the ‘VlogBrothers’ on YouTube with his brother, John Green - the award-winning author of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and ‘Searching for Alaska’.  The two brothers make videos every week for their fanbase, whom they call ‘nerdfighters’.

While three of the four allegations have not been made in a legal claim, the Tumblr and YouTube communities are abuzz with the volume of fans and creators adding their voices and experiences to the mix.

Alan Lastufka removed merchandise belonging to Lombardo from the DFTBA website and donated profits from Lombardo’s music to RAINN. (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

In total there are three YouTube celebrities other than Lombardo accused of abusing their position of power. Several high-profile female YouTubers, along with Hank Green, have taken to YouTube to create videos on consent and what it means.

‘Summer in the City’, a London YouTube convention, announced that one of their  guests has been removed from the line-up with immediate effect, to provide a “safe space” for fans to “meet and interact with the people you look up to”.

Hank Green, co-founder of DFTBA Records, posted to his blog that he was “horrified and extremely disappointed… that I was not able to realize that this was happening”, adding “I am furious…that’s all I can feel right now.”

Hank and John Green also co-founded the first YouTube convention Vidcon, which happens in Anaheim every summer. Last year, over 6,000 fans arrived to meet and greet their favourite YouTube stars. Attendees under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or chaperone. None of the YouTube entertainers involved in the allegations currently feature on the special guest list.

Hank Green posted a video to the ‘VlogBrothers’ YouTube channel to discuss ‘consent’ and announced that he and John were working on setting up a taskforce with survivors of sexual abuse. He revealed plans by the brothers to produce and fund a series of videos that discuss the idea of abuse, consent and sexual relationships in the new digital world and to partner with existing sexual assault organisations to bring their work into the online community.

 

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