Danh Van Le is a YouTube Star whose more recent viral exploits have made him a menace to society. On July 5, 2015, Van Le and some cohorts shot museum heist hoax videos at two separate galleries in London for his YouTube channel Trollstation. One woman reportedly fainted while onlookers ran from the scene. Today, England’s courts weren’t laughing, sentencing Van Le to 12 weeks while the four other Trollstation members received sentences as long as 20 weeks behind bars for two charges of “intent to cause fear” or “provok[ing] unlawful violence.”
Van Le was additionally sentenced for 24 weeks in March for a previous hoax involving a fake briefcase bomb filmed in September (via Metro below). The prank was supposedly inspired by Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old teenager who was arrested when teachers thought his homemade clock was a bomb. In total, Van Le will serve nearly 9 months.
With 718,000 subscribers and nearly 200 million views in total, Trollstation considers itself the number one hoax YouTube channel in the United Kingdom. From those millions of views, Trollstation has probably made buckets of money, depending on YouTube’s secret recipe for ad revenue. Since Van Le was jailed in March, the channel has gone completely silent due to bail conditions. They’ve stated that they’ll “re-evaluate” their approach and how they use their “big influence” positively, according to the BBC. However, their Twitter account takes a more defiant tone.
YouTube doesn’t do much to inhibit these types of channels either. The site is even made the popular Prank vs Prank channel—which has way more subscribers than Trollstation at 10 million—its own YouTube Red original series. It’s unclear exactly what role, if any, YouTube should play as the company essentially footing the bill for these videos. When contacted about this story, YouTube refused to comment on the record.
Although Trollstation isn’t associated with YouTube in any official way, there’s still plenty of money to be made if your pranks can one-up the competition—and there is lots of competition. But this continued series of bigger and bolder hoaxes, especially in a country already on high alert for terrorist activity (and for good reason), creates a shitty scenario where crimes are committed in the name of clicks.