Spain’s Supreme Court has confirmed a Barcelona judge’s decision to ban a young man from YouTube for five years after he posted a video of himself humiliating a homeless person, whom he fed toothpaste-filled Oreo cookies.
Kenghua Ren, 23, who goes by the name of ReSet on YouTube, earned €2,180 from page views.
In addition to being banned from having an account on the social network for five years, Ren was handed a 15-month prison term and ordered to pay his victim €20,000 for the moral damages caused by the online distribution of of the video. Under Spanish law, people with no prior criminal record who are convicted to less than two years in jail can request to have the sentence commuted.
With his YouTube channel, Ren had become a well-known influencer in Spain and Latin America. At one point he had 1.1 million subscribers, and his most popular videos were the ones where he faced “challenges.”
At the 2019 trial in Barcelona, the young man acted much as he did in his YouTube channel, cracking jokes and making insolent remarks. He told the prosecutor that he seemed too serious and asked lawyers, “Where are you getting this stuff from?”
“It was all a joke, it was not my intention to offend anyone. You guys are really strict with the law,” added Ren, who mostly seemed to regret having lost viewers over the scandal: his channel once accumulated 120 million views; by 2018, that figure had fallen to four million. “I dropped out of high school to pursue this job. I was doing fine. And then this happened. The media has screwed me over.”
When the incriminating video emerged in 2017, the Barcelona municipal police filed a report against Ren for degrading treatment and contempt for the moral integrity of a person at risk of exclusion, compounded by the fact that he had shared the images on the internet. Officers located the homeless man in the neighborhood of Marina del Port and told him he could file a complaint. The prosecution was led by Barcelona’s hate crimes prosecutor, Miguel Ángel Aguilar.
The homeless man, who has been identified as Gheorge L., explained that on January 17, 2017 a young man came up to him with a €20 bill and a pack of cookies, without telling them they were filled with toothpaste. On January 22, Ren posted a new video apologizing for his actions following a wave of negative reaction. Ren said that his own immaturity made him do it. “It was my fault, I’m really sorry.”
But at the trial, he admitted that he only apologized in a bid to stop the criticism. “This has really sunk me. My videos were attracting advertising and I was making money with that,” he told the court angrily. “Now my account is worthless. My channel has tanked.”