A DARK and sinister new trend has emerged in live streaming as sick YouTubers inflict torture, bury people alive and even kill for cash.
Known as “trash-streaming”, the disturbing yet lucrative subculture – which is rife in Russia – sees video content creators broadcast their dangerous and sometimes bizarre or chaotic actions live via a webcam or smartphone.
But what sets these apart from the average streamed video is the depraved nature of stunts and the fact warped viewers send donations along with requests for what the vlogger should do next.
It has become so extreme that in recent months a pregnant woman has been killed and a mum-of-three allegedly raped live on camera.
The twisted side of the trend often attracts those who – incentivised to make quick cash – are willing to push the boundaries to stand out, gain more viewers and draw in more money.
Streamers are often seen drinking on camera as they seemingly commit physical and emotional abuse – sometimes forcing people to commit grotesque acts such as eating maggots or fish guts.
And while the participants often assure they are willing volunteers, in some videos they are seen begging their tormenters to stop as they scream for help.
Groups get together and proceed to simply torture and abuse each other on camera – with the vulnerable often exploited as they urge viewers to fork over cash.
YouTubers and other streamers make money by appealing to their fans for donations or “tips” through third party money transfer platforms – with some even offering a price list for certain actions to be committed on camera.
In December, Russian YouTuber Stas Reeflay – real name Stanialav Reshetnikov – allegedly killed his girlfriend during one such stream after locking her on a balcony in freezing temperatures while on live stream.
In another trash-stream, a homeless man was distressingly buried alive while in another woman’s head was repeatedly slammed against a table.
And just this month, a vile broadcast reportedly showed a mum-of-three drugged and raped as vloggers trashed her apartment.
While YouTube and Twitch, the two most common platforms used by trash-streamers, do block creators who show such vile content, sometimes livestreams go ahead unrestricted.
And if removed, vloggers are adept at simply moving to back-up channels and fans often upload videos after to YouTube or messaging app Telegram.
Russian legislators are desperately trying to curb the practice and are looking to ban them, and the streamers, altogether.
Russia is even considering forcing live streamers to register as individual entrepreneurs, making them to pay taxes on donations, but also allowing police to track them.
But the lucrative side to the trend also sees others, desperate for cash, allow themselves to part with their dignity for easy money.
For one participant, Valentin Ganichev, it has seen him pelted with eggs, forced to eat maggots and fish guts, doused in alcohol and even buried alive.
In return for food and a roof over his head, homeless Ganichev has tolerated repeated humiliation and unthinkable abuse as vloggers cash in on his suffering.
Often appearing to be intoxicated during broadcasts, Ganichev has been heard crying for help as he is subjected to vile stunts.
But after police investigated on request of distressed viewers, Ganichev reportedly said he was a willing volunteer.
The coronavirus pandemic has only acted as a catalyst for the heinous trend, with the combination of boredom and the need to make cash accelerating the pace of its popularity.
During the summer lockdown, Aleksandr Timartsev – the YouTuber behind channel Versus Battle – launched reality show Sosed.Tv in a spin-off of the craze.
A group of strangers moved into a house with cameras in every room, with money taken from viewers to do whatever is asked of them and some areas, such as bedrooms, behind paywalls.
The concept never took off, but further thrust the trash-streaming trend into a negative spotlight when a woman reported she was raped while at the house.
Last December, YouTuber Stanialav Reshetnikov was arrested after he was paid a reported $1,000 (£750) by a viewer to inflict abuse on Valentina Grigoryeva, 28, during a live stream from his home near Moscow.
Footage showed him pushing Grigoryeva – who was in the early stages of pregnancy – onto the balcony of his flat wearing only her underwear.
He then told viewers that she was suffering from an intestinal condition and that he had forced her outside “so that she would not stink”.
Reshetnikov was later seen on the livestream bringing her back inside unconscious, saying “Valya, are you alive?”, before telling those watching “Guys.. no pulse.. She’s pale. She is not breathing.”
He continued the chilling broadcast to tens of thousands of followers – even after calling for an ambulance.
The camera was still live when paramedics pronounced Grigoryeva dead, and Reshetnikov was later arrested and charged with grievous bodily harm resulting in death.
YouTube said the original stream did not take place on the site – but numerous versions of the video were reuploaded, some still live for more than week.
Russian law enforcement said Grigoryeva died from appalling head injuries after Reshetnikov reportedly admitted to hitting her on the day of her death.
It was not the first time he had been seen abusing his girlfriend live on camera for kicks, with previous videos showing him pepper-spraying her and smashing plates over her head.
Some, like Grigoryeva, are innocent victims at the hands of those blindly spurred on by financial reward.
HOW YOU CAN GET HELP:
Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:
- Always keep your phone nearby.
- Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
- If you are in danger, call 999.
- Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
- Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
- If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
- Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – email@example.com.
Women’s Aid provides a live chat service available. from 10am to noon.
You can also call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
Meanwhile another trash-streamer, Andrei Yashin, known as Gobsavr online, broadcasts live with his mum Lyudmila from Chelyabinsk for 20,000 rubles (£190) a time.
During one video, he kissed her on the lips, and another time punched her in the face.
The demise of one trash-streamer has already come about.
Andrey Burim, better known as Mellstroy, started off cashing in on the trend by convincing girls on chat roulettes to strip, broadcasting interactions YouTube.
This spiralled into the vlogger, whose YouTube channel boasted more than half a million followers, holding alcohol and allegedly drug fuelled parties at his Moscow apartment, which he streamed.
As thousands watched on Mellstroy would collect donations from viewers to get women naked, get two revellers to fight and even douse someone in urine.
But last October his lewd broadcasts, which often were viewed by up to 1.5million, came to an abrupt end when he was arrested for allegedly beating a 21-year-old model live on air.
Mellstroy repeatedly smashed her head against a table after she made a joke about his body, and he was subsequently banned from YouTube and other streaming platforms.
Despite such horrific accounts and arrests, still the trend goes on.
Just last week we reported how a horror livestream reportedly showed men rape a mum-of-three and trash her apartment as viewers paid them to abuse her.
The victim, 30, was allegedly drugged to fall unconscious before she was sexually attacked at her home in Yaroslavl.
Several men could be seen on the video destroying her flat as they sought donations from watchers for each act of wanton destruction, with the livestream not stopped by YouTube.
The distressing footage of the alleged rape that was allowed to be livestreamed on the platform has been deleted according to reports, but the trashing of the flat remains.
It has led to further public outcry of demands for changes in the law to counter the sinister trend.
Speaking after the death of Grigoryeva, feminist activist Liza Lazerson hit out at YouTube for banning bare breasts but showing scenes of violence and cruelty against women “without problems”.
She said: “The woman dies on air – and the audience sends donations to the killer. This must stop.
“Such videos are calmly broadcast to the whole world, meaning something is broken. Until this is fixed, censorship is necessary.”
Highlighting the state’s limited power to control internet activity, Russia was forced to lift a ban on Telegram last summer after a failed effort to block it.
New laws, however, may soon be established that penalise streams which contain violence or threats to health under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Punishments may include fines, community services and jail terms ranging from three to six years – with the potential of harsher sentences for murder.
But a question mark hangs over how successful such legislation would be, dependent on how lawmakers define the activity and the potential grey area of victims who consent to participation.
YouTube has previously said “graphic content” like many of the trash streams is banned on their platform – and has taken action to terminate accounts of streamers like Reeflay.
However, many of the videos can be still found on the site as fans or ghouls repeatedly reupload the clips to beat the YouTube censors.
TIPS TO KEEP KIDS SAFE ONLINE
Here’s some measures parents/guardians can take…
- The Sun previously spoke to online safety expert Claire Stead, who shared her top tips for parents who want to make sure their kids aren’t getting access to any dodgy material online.
- 1. Teach yourself: If you familiarise yourself with popular apps like Instagram and Snapchat then you’ll have a better idea of the risks your kids face, and how to prevent them.
- 2. Check privacy settings: Major apps and services – like Facebook or your Sky TV box – have ways of restricting access for young people, so check through the settings thoroughly before letting your child onto a device.
- 3. Get them offline: It’s key to remind children that there’s a whole world offline too, to help dampen the impact of potential cyberbullying – which Claire calls “the biggest concern around online safety”.
- 4. Talk to them: Make sure children know the risks they face but also make them aware that they can talk to you when things go wrong – particularly if someone is being mean to them, or being sexual with them, online.
View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/news/2605627/russias-disturbing-trash-streaming-trend/