A YouTube prankster making fun of acid attacks is receiving outrage in the United Kingdom. According to The Independent, 22-year-old Arya Mosallah recorded himself throwing water in random people’s faces in London for his YouTube channel, imitating a real acid attack.
As The Washington Post reports, in a real acid attack, the attacker will approach a victim and throw liquid in his or her face. Mosallah's prank was nearly identical, except the liquid he threw was water. The city of London has an average of two acid attack a day, which is the highest per person in any country in the world.
On social media, critics have blasted the prank for undermining the severity of real acid attacks. "I lost an eye to an acid attack (alkali, actually, worse) and you're right, this is horrendous," tweeted one person named Eliot Cole. "If this person was brandishing a toy gun to joke terrorise people, the police would be called in to manage the situation. This is no different."
According to The Daily Beast, the video received more than 1.5 million views. In it, the YouTuber teases his audience that he'll continue his prank to rack up likes. “You guys know what happens when I’m back with my cup. I’m going to be throwing water in people’s faces.”
After news of the YouTube prank spread, the video was pulled down. The Washington Post shares that Mosallah posted a response in which he showed no remorse. “You’re crying over one video that was a joke and was never meant to be for these old boring people,” he said. He then claimed that the media was engaging in "slander" against him.
In London, 2017 was the worst year for acid attacks. As CNN reports, more than 75% of suspected attackers (and the majority of victims) were between the ages of 10 and 29. 71% of attackers and 72% of victims were male. Robbery is often the motive.
YouTube has been under fire for not doing enough to pull down offensive or dangerous videos. Earlier this month, the platform received backlash after popular YouTube Logan Paul showed a video that appeared to be of a man who had committed suicide in Japan. YouTube shared that it is tightening its approval and ads policy following that incident. “We announced that we would hire 10,000 people to help us manage and enforce the policies that we have across content on YouTube,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojicki said in an interview with MSNBC. “We’ve always had community guidelines on YouTube and we’ve always enforced those guidelines.” Paul has since returned to YouTube.
British authorities say that Mosallah could be charged legally. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told The Independent that Mosallah could be arrested for causing public hysteria. Causing “fear, alarm or distress to members of the public” is an offence under the Public Order Act, they said. “We would encourage anyone who has been a victim of crime – through a prank or otherwise – to contact police."