Minecraft, YouTube and the constant threat of online predators

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Minecraft and sexual predators online

The internet is an incredibly remarkable place, in that it always finds new was to fascinate and conversely frighten me. The lack of physical proximity present in online interactions has allowed for some truly terrible behaviour by some equally awful human beings, supported by laws that don’t yet quite understand how to effectively manage this space. It’s an ever-present threat, highlighted by predators who aren’t even afraid of getting caught anymore.

So much can be said for LionMaker (real name Marcus Wilson) – a prominent 20-something Minecraft YouTube sensation that plays to an audience in excess of 600 000 fans. Most of these fans happen to be teenagers, which makes a lot of sense. Minecraft is hugely popular with younger players, which is part of the reason why so many YouTubers use it as a primary source of attraction. Some, like LionMaker, are using their fame for more predatory means though.

A massive expose into the recent actions of LionMaker by Motherboard paint a nasty picture. In June 2015 he was accused of requesting nude photographs of one of his fans that he regularly conversed with online – twelve-year-old Chantelle Wiseman. Thankfully being properly taught of the dangers of online interaction, Chantelle immediately alerted her mother Suzie who then took over the interaction and got the police involved.

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Chantelle kept screenshots of her interactions with LionMaker, but it wasn’t enough for any legal action. LionMaker got off relatively unscathed, producing an alibi that he refuses to prove when questioned about it. His fans also turned on Chantelle, accusing her of doctoring the images to try and frame the YouTube celebrity. It’s an experience which has haunted Chantelle ever since.

At the same time however, LionMaker was continuing with his daily videos and interactions, which included sexual conversations with 15-year-old viewer Stephen Cheenks. LionMaker offered the young teen $500 for nude pictures to be sent, with the amount being immediately wired through PayPal afterwards. Cheenks never agreed to the arrangement and reported it, but the transaction history hunted down by Motherboard shows that it took place. LionMaker had commissioned underage pornography and paid for it – an already criminal offence.

And still nothing was legally done about it. Until December 21st. On this day LionMaker’s Twitter account went somewhat viral after he allegedly posted confessions to the acts, along with two nude photos of long-time fan and apparent girlfriend Paige Thepanda (a pseudonym). Paige immediately confirmed that the pictures were of her, and the tweets were quickly deleted from the account along with previous ramblings of LionMaker admitting to predatory tendencies. Paige was only 16-years-old at the time. LionMaker is 27.

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According to LionMaker his account was hacked, with events transpiring much the sam way they had with Chantelle Wiseman. To make matters worse, LionMaker attempted to prove that a relationship between him and Paige wasn’t illegal. Although pornographic images of a minor certainly was, and still is.

Yet LionMaker still produces videos to this day, with an even stronger following and fans avid enough to downplay his involvement in these “scandals”. Even other prominent YouTubers seems to turn a blind eye in favour of lucrative partnerships – even when they know the truth.

LionMaker and the other online celebrities that use their reach to perpetrate these vile acts just serve as a reminder on how important online security really is. These are people who make videos for entertainment purposes, use the subject matter to lure prey and harness their celebrity status to instil false confidence in their character. And it’s often difficult to concern yourself over, as some parents admitted to doing when speaking to Motherboard. The idea that someone so famous could get away with something this vile seems far-fetched, but it’s exactly what’s happening.

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You have to look no further than UK-citizen Breck Bednar. Back in 2014 Bednar was murdered after lying about his whereabouts and visiting a friend he had met online through videogame interaction. 18-year-old Lewis Daynes stabbed Bednar to death after months of online, predatory grooming – another victim of the seduction of online anonymity. A tragic situation made worse by the fact that online surveillance is becoming increasing difficult, and it’s a nightmare for parents everywhere.

The only real action one could take is education. The internet is never going away, and the people that use it to commit these crimes will likely just multiply. Parents need to teach their children about the dangers of online interaction, expose them to the true nature behind the white smiles and charming natures on digital screens. Parents also need to pay as much attention to behaviours as possible, and never feel the need to not step in when they think something is off.

These predators feed on the insecurities of their victims and the ignorance of their guardians, and it only takes one good cast to hook a target.

Last Updated: February 4, 2016

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