When we last left the horrifying world of algorithm-tinged children’s YouTube videos, computer-animated Spider-Men were burying alive Elsa from Frozen. YouTube has since made some efforts to keep your children from seeing Peppa Pig eat her own father, but so long as there is YouTube and its inscrutable algorithm there will be weird semi-anonymous Eastern-European content factories doing their best to make David Lynch movies for pre-schoolers. Today, Vox has taken a peek into the latest sub-genre of these sorts of videos: “DIY/Prank” videos.
You might be thinking that DIY and “prank” are necessarily two completely different types of videos. Traditionally, one features a dude attempting simultaneously to hold his phone camera, hit his Juul, and show you how to unstick the L3 button on your PS4 controller, while the other generally features people getting hit in the nuts. But no, instead what we have here are videos that teach you how to do things like make a giant “notebook” out of marshmallows that you can eat, but also when you eat the notebook it sends you to some sort of limbo to await judgment for your sins?
These videos come from a few sources but the most popular one is something called “Troom Troom.” As Vox discovered, Troom Troom seems to be based out of Odessa, Ukraine, which you might expect based on the very strange English employed in these videos. Troom Troom are very cagey about revealing who they are, how they operate, and at what sort of profit—all of which is typical for this sort of weird, possibly multi-million dollar venture. Vox actually managed to get in touch with someone from Troom Troom, who says of their videos, “Currently, we try to mix entertainment with DIY value. We found that any video should entertain if you want to make an impact on the viewers and not just to get them bored.” Enlightening!
Another defining characteristic of these videos seems to be the fact that they aren’t really “DIY.” This is in part because you absolutely should not do these yourself, in part because they seem like they would be fairly difficult for the target audience to do themselves, and in part because many don’t really ever get around to describing in detail how you would actually do any of these things if you did have the requisite break from reality required to want to in the first place. As you can no doubt ascertain from the previous clips, the thumbnails of these clips also contain a particularly uncanny combination of YouTube Face and weird-mouth-stuff chumbox fodder. Troom Troom seem very convinced that a “prank” is when you make someone watch you eat weirdly gelatinous food that looks like it is not food and then they in turn make you do the same.
Of course, one might argue that most DIY content isn’t actually intended to be replicated by the viewer. That goes for normal cooking and home improvement shows on television just as much as online videos showing you how to hide a block of manchego in a glue stick. And yes, there’s nothing explicitly wrong with these videos—they don’t contain the violence or weird sexuality of the last batch of CGI algorithm-chum, and mostly seem like harmless “fun” for kids—but they do still feel off. As always, the best answer for parents is to be involved in their children’s online lives. You might assume your child is doing something wholesome and harmless like playing Minecraft for twelve straight hours, but realize they could be watching these freaks smuggle hot dogs into art class in a pack of fucking baby wipes. Disgusting.
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