From Austin Jones to Onision: holding creators accountable in the digital era

For the last few years, James “Onision” Jackson has consistently been one of YouTube’s most hated content creators. There are countless reasons why, including his videos rating the bodies of underaged fans, his trilogy of god-awful books and multiple allegations of emotional and sexual abuse from his ex-girlfriends.

​Most recently, Onision re-entered the spotlight when he and his husband Kai Avaroe were accused of grooming a girl named Sarah, who met Kai on Twitter when she was fourteen. She initially shared her story in an interview with YouTuber Blair White, but gave a more detailed account to former TV show host Chris Hansen on his YouTube channel. 

Sarah’s difficult home life provoked the decision for her to move in with the couple after they acquired her temporary legal guardianship. They kicked her out in 2017 because of concern from viewers about sexual misconduct. After visiting them on and off, they started having sexual relations with her just after she turned 18. Leaked text messages between Kai and Onision show a disturbing argument about who took her virginity. 

​Along with being an exemplary foster parent, Onision is also the biological father to two children. A police report from last September describes his two-year-old daughter falling out of a second floor window while Onision was in another room.Public records show that the FBI has since opened a case on him after reviewing his video content.

​Hansen has also interviewed other alleged victims of abuse in his ongoing investigation of Onision, including his ex-girlfriend Shiloh. Early in his career, Onision came under fire for filming Shiloh after having a seizure-like episode where she completely lost her memory and posting it online instead of taking her to a hospital. In her interview with Hansen, she describes the emotional abuse and manipulation she went through in their relationship, which started when she was 18 and Onision was 26. 

​As a part of his investigation, Hansen and his crew visited Onision’s home in Auburn late last month. Onision called 911 on his “YouTube stalkers” and filed lawsuits against Hansen and YouTuber MrRepzion, who has made videos calling Onision outfor his behavior ever since the memory loss incident with Shiloh in 2011. 

​YouTube is a platform that is incredibly popular with young kids and tweens, which makes it potentially attractive for predators. Just last year, YouTuber and musician Austin Jones was sentenced to ten years in prison for soliciting child pornography from 13 and 14-year-old fans in 2017.

​His case and Onision’s are indicative of how vigilant the online community has become about predatory behavior. At the end of the day, the community is responsible for ensuring that creators like Onision aren’t able to leverage their fame and popularity to manipulate young fans. There isn’t any way to undo the damage done to the victims of abusive and predatory creators, but seeing them held accountable for their actions is a step in the right direction for the safety of digital platforms.