Invisible ink prank daddyofive

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Overview

DaddyOFive Prank Controversy refers to a prank video and ensuing backlash in which Maryland resident Mike Martin and his wife Heather Martin loudly yell profanities at their children after pouring invisible ink on a carpet. After the video was uploaded to YouTube in mid-April 2017, the parents were widely accused of being verbally abusive to their children and exploiting them for advertising revenue on the video-sharing platform.

Background

On April 12th, 2017, the DaddyOFive YouTube channel uploaded a video titled “Invisible Ink Prank! (Epic Freakout)”, in which a mother and father pour invisible ink on the carpet, then loudly scold and scream profanities at their children while accusing them of making the mess. After the video was uploaded, comments, ratings and embedding was disabled by the channel. The video has since been removed.

Developments

Online Reaction

On April 15th, Redditor faudeywauda submitted the video to /r/h3h3productions, where it gathered upwards of 2,000 points (96% upvoted) and 430 comments within 72 hours. On April 16th, DaddyOFive uploaded a video titled “Blocking All the Haters!,” in which one of his children says “it’s just a prank bro” while the father compares himself to YouTuber Roman Atwood (re-upload shown below) and dismisses the criticism received as jealous hate.

On April 17th, Philip DeFranco uploaded an episode criticizing the parents for repeatedly exploiting their children for YouTube views, specifically their youngest son Cody (shown below). Within 24 hours, the video gained over 1.44 million views and 38,800 comments.

The same day, Mike Martin uploaded a video titled “GETTING READY FOR DISNEY!!”, where the family gets ready to go to Disneyland, with the only exception being Cody as he is left behind with his grandparents for bad behaviour, which Heather, the mother, later reveals to be smearing poop everywhere. This statement would raise larger amounts of concern as this is considered by many psychologists to be a significant sign of abuse. Heather would later brush the event off in the video with her wishing Cody would be a normal kid.

First Youtube Apology

On April 19th, Mike Martin uploaded an apology video (shown below) titled “Family Destroyed Over False Aquisations”, where the family apologize for the pranks and saying how the pranks pulled were fake, while also putting the blame on Phillip DeFranco for, as he later puts in a tweet, “destroying a happy family and destroying our way of life.” The video would later be taken down alongside all their other videos uploaded since the start of the channel.

Keemstar Interview

On April 18th, 2017, YouTuber Keemstar interviewed Mike and Heather Martin, giving them an opportunity to tell their side of the story. However, the interview received a negative reception from viewers, garnering more than 30,000 downvotes and 17,000 upvotes. The post (shown below) received more than 866,000 views.

Second Youtube Apology

On April 22nd, the couple released another apology video entitled “DaddyOFive Founders Issues Public Apology.” The post (shown below) acknowledges their mistakes in going ahead with these prank videos. The video, however, has since been removed.

Legal Battles

On May 1st, 2017, Rose Hall, the biological mother of Cody and Emma from the videos, received emergency custody of the children. Tim Conlon, Hall’s attorney, posted a video explaining the situation. The post (shown below) received more than one million views in four months.

On September 11th, 2017, Mike and Heather Martin were sentenced to five-years probation on charges of child neglect.

News Media Coverage

Several news sites published articles about the controversy, including The Sun, The New York Post and BBC’s Newsbeat.

FamilyOFive Channel

On July 2nd, 2017, a video was uploaded to a new channel MommyOFive, in which Heather Martin discusses the controversies surrounding the DaddyOFive channel (shown below). The channel was later renamed to FamilyOFive.

On July 16th, 2018, YouTuber Amanda the Jedi uploaded a video titled “DaddyOFive Still Uploading with Manipulation and No Remorse,” which discussed the FamilyOFive channel (shown below). Within 24 hours, the video gained upwards of 269,000 views and 480 comments. The following day, Redditor BushidoBrowne submitted the video to /r/videos, where it gathered upwards of 65,200 points (82% upvoted) and 2,200 comments within 18 hours.

Meanwhile, Redditor 1shouldbeworking_ submitted a post asking about the channel to /r/OutOfTheLoop, receiving more than 8,600 points (91% upvoted) and 540 comments in eight hours. Also on July 17th, The Daily Dot published an article about the FamilyOFive channel titled “DaddyOFive is now FamilyOFive–but the content is still abusive.”

On July 18, 2018, the channel was terminated for violation of Youtube’s community guidelines.

Sentence Reduction

On January 8th, 2019, a Frederick County, Maryland judge reduced the sentence of the YouTuber parents from supervised probation to unsupervised probation. The reduction comes after the couple violated the conditions of their sentence, which barred them from uploading videos that feature their children Cody and Emma. In August 2018, the YouTube channel Team DO5 Fans, operated by Michael Martin, one of the parents, featured archival footage of the children (shown below).

The video was made in support of the parents, encouraging viewers to a sign a Change.org petition to reinstate the channel.

The children currently live with their biological mother, who sent a letter to the judge telling the judge that the couple continued to upload videos of the children. The Martin’s lawyer refuted the claims that the video was an infraction. He said, “The order was fairly specific, and I don’t think my clients have violated those orders.”

Heather and Michael Martin, the parents behind now-infamous YouTube channel DaddyOFive — who were convicted in September 2017 of emotionally and physically abusing their children — have had their sentences reduced.

The pair were originally sentenced to five years of supervised probation. With their reduced sentence, the number of years they’ll be on probation hasn’t been lessened, but the Martins have been dropped from supervised to unsupervised probation, and they’ll also now be allowed to pursue expungement of their charges after three years, per The Daily Dot.

DaddyOFive came to law enforcement officials’ attention in early 2017 after a number of complaints from viewers. The Martins, who at the time had around 800,000 subscribers, posted numerous videos of their five children — particularly their youngest son Cody — in distress after being the victim of cruel pranks. (Three of the pairs’ children are Heather’s sons, and two are Michael’s from a previous marriage. The Martins lost custody of Michael’s sons in May 2017 during a police investigation into the couple.)

In one particularly notorious video, Heather and Michael splashed invisible ink on the light carpet of a bedroom, then screamed accusations at their sobbing children, demanding to know why they were lying about having ruined the carpet. That video, along with the rest of their content, was deleted by YouTube after the Martins were convicted.

One condition of their 2017 convictions barred the Martins from making further content of their children. However, after they were convicted, they continued making content similar to their FamilyOFive videos on the channels FamilyOFive and FamilyOFive Gaming. YouTube terminated those channels in July 2018.

But there are allegations that the deletion of those channels hasn’t stopped the couple from making videos of their children. During the legal proceedings ahead of the Martins’ sentencing reduction, Maryland judge Theresa M. Adams received a statement from the mother of Michael’s two children alleging that Michael “continues to make videos and has a paid web page making money off of the children,” The Daily Dot reports. (Tubefilter could not find any active YouTube channels that appear to belong to the Martins, and could not locate an external webpage.)

It’s unclear why the judge would lower the couple’s probation level and allow expungement in the face of multiple alleged violations of their sentencing terms. She did, during their re-sentencing, tell the couple again that they’re not allowed to make vlogs featuring their children, and that they must continue to work with YouTube to remove all their previous content (likely including the significant number of reuploads from other users).

#DaddyOFive convicted #YouTube child neglect parents get reduced sentence today despite apparent violation of 2017 court orders to stop uploads of videos featuring Cody/Emma. https://t.co/tHCYVDm87Y @wusa9 @PhillyD pic.twitter.com/kw5yl6D5Wl

— Scott Broom (@scottbroom) January 8, 2019

At the time of FamilyOFive and FamilyOFive Gaming’s terminations, YouTube issued a statement about the Martins, saying, “Content that endangers children is unacceptable to us. We have worked extensively alongside experts in child safety to make sure we have strict policies and are aggressively enforcing them.”

Photo: DaddyOFive/YouTube

DaddyOFive is a fairly popular YouTube channel — it boasts around 750,000 subscribers — founded in August of 2015. Until recently, it posted daily videos depicting the life of a blended family: Mike Martin; his son, Cody; his daughter, Emma; and his wife, Heather, and her three sons. The Martins would often put up “typical” family videos, recording and publishing the day-to-day movements of their lives, but their most popular videos are loosely executed pranks, targeted mostly at Cody, the youngest of the five.

What the family calls “pranking,” though, can look an awful lot like abuse. In the most troubling videos Martin, usually with the help of Heather or her oldest son, accuses Cody of bad behavior and curses at him, or smashes his electronics, prompting Cody to get more and more upset — screaming he didn’t do anything, crying, red-faced, and trying to get off camera. Other videos from the family’s archive (which redditors have been combing through for the past week) feature Martin shoving Cody into a bookshelf; encouraging the older boys to tackle, punch, and kick Cody; and goading his kids to slap each other, hard, across the face. (“You should never, ever hit a woman,” he says in that last example, “but this is your sister, so it doesn’t count.”)

It’s not uncommon, or even unheard of, for popular family vlogs to showcase their children’s pain for views (as I’ve covered previously, ER videos are insanely popular). But for most people familiar with the YouTube universe, the behavior displayed on DaddyOFive’s channel is worse than anything they’ve seen before on a YouTube family vlog, and it’s brought on a crisis in the informal community of YouTube family vloggers — a community that’s also an increasingly large, and increasingly profitable, business. The top family YouTube channels pull in millions of dollars in revenue a year, but unlike most multi-million-dollar industries, family vloggers have no trade shows or publications, and no formal organizations beyond the MCNs (multi-channel networks) and YouTube reps that give them little time and less transparency. Instead, they share industry news, common gripes, and the day-to-day scuttlebutt on a series of secret Facebook pages that one prominent family vlogger referred to as “our water cooler.”

All the vloggers I talked to discovered DaddyOFive through one of these Facebook pages, or through another YouTuber, Philip DeFranco, who created a video exposé collecting and commenting on some of DaddyOFive’s worst moments. Two days after DeFranco’s video launched, the story ballooned everywhere, from YouTube-specific sites like We the Unicorns and Tubefilter to the New York Post and BBC News. YouTube removed ads from the channel. (Their only comment: “Videos violating YouTube’s community guidelines are removed from the platform.”) Several videos were deleted, but some similarly upsetting videos — with titles like “Dad Destroys Son’s Xbox One PRANK” — remained up, until the Martins made the channel’s entire archive private, after issuing their first public apology several hours later. (On Martin’s Twitter, he claims the decision to demonetize was his own.) YouTube has not responded to further requests for comment.

Both the Martins and Rose Hall, Cody and Emma’s biological mother, report that a Child Protective Services investigation of the family took place in the state of Maryland — Hall’s sister Crystal Reynolds added, aghast, that investigators had considered the behavior “ corporal punishment.” Maryland CPS is not legally permitted to confirm or deny that an investigation occurred.

Hall, who lives in North Carolina and had custody of Emma and Cody until 2014, alleges that the children were taken from her illegally and unfairly, and that the Martins forged paperwork from her granting them permanent custody, and used intimidation tactics in the ensuing custody battle. Hall also alleges that she made Maryland authorities aware of the DaddyOFive channel in October, though Maryland CPS has claimed that they were unaware of the videos until the scandal broke. Detective Drew Robinson at the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina confirms that a police report including the videos was filed on October 17, and says the office passed the information to Maryland authorities.

Marc Abrams, a child psychologist and forensic consultant for the State of New York was skeptical that the behavior, though careless and stupid, could actually be labeled abuse. “Excess corporal punishment or excess physical violence is considered abuse,” Abrams said. “Now, how do you define excess? Good luck. How much money do you have to spend on a lawyer.”

Last Sunday afternoon, Mike and Heather Martin posted a new apology video, deleting or privatizing their previous attempt, in which they take responsibility for harming their kids and offending others, and admit to entering family counseling. “If I didn’t know the people and I saw some of those things,” Heather says, “I would be thinking the same thing.” The video is stylistically weird, with professional lighting, a fully made-up Heather doing most of the talking, and frequent fade-to-black cuts in the middle of sentences. Onscreen alone, the couple seems genuinely contrite and respectful, though skepticism is appropriate for a family that’s spent the last week claiming to feign pain for attention. Though, when Heather opens the video saying, “This has been the absolute worst week of our life,” it’s easy to believe. (We were not able to reach the Martins for comment on this story.)

Regardless of where their situation lands legally, the Martins appear to have taken some of the criticism to heart. But this is not an isolated incident. Channels showing 8- to 12-year-old girls as “Bad Babies” — making messes, throwing tantrums, being harshly scolded, acting out repeated body horrors, or being watched by ogling monsters while sleeping — routinely get hundreds of millions of views a month. None are as immediately disturbing as DaddyOFive’s explicit videos — the girls on the most popular channels are obviously acting, and seem, in the short snippets we see, to be having fun — but the line between harmless fun and exploitation can be blurry on YouTube, especially as life-changing amounts of money get involved.

Estimates of DaddyOFive’s income range from $200,000 to $350,000 annually, and while they have made clear that this money pays for toys and trips for their children (at one point in apologizing, they worried that selling their kids’ electronics might be the only way to support themselves), the onscreen victimization suffered by the Martin kids is only part of the injustice. Though many young YouTube stars essentially work as child entertainers — the Martins explicitly claim that their kids are acting, and many families are open about scripting some videos — the conditions of and income from their labor are not regulated. Most rely entirely on the generosity of their parents, who receive automated payments from ad revenue, to see any benefit from their work, and that financial coercion is important to consider when the Martin children making middling or even positive statements about their parents’ treatment, as they did in a since-privatized initial response.

“I​ ​think​ ​that​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​responsibility​ ​does​ ​fall​ ​on​ ​YouTube,​ ​because​ ​I​ ​know​ ​that​ ​tons​ ​of​ ​videos​ sure​ ​get​ ​flagged​ ​every​ ​day,​ ​but​ ​when​ ​a​ ​YouTube​ ​channel​ ​who​ ​flags​ ​something​ ​has​ 2​ ​or​ ​5

million​ ​subscribers,​ ​they​ ​need​ ​to​ ​take​ ​a​ ​look​ ​at​ ​that,” said Kristine, who creates Family Fun Pack with her kids (she asked me not to use her last name to protect the family’s offscreen privacy).

Both she and another family vlogger I spoke to, who asked to not be identified, have millions of subscribers and their own YouTube reps, but neither attempted to reach out to the company directly.

“In​ ​the​ ​past​, ​when​ ​I’ve​ ​brought​ ​up​ ​things​ ​that​ ​have​ ​to​ ​do​ ​with​ ​other​ ​YouTubers,​” the prominent vlogger said, “it​ ​was​ ​just like,​ ‘​I’m​ ​your​ ​rep,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​really​ ​do​ ​anything​ ​else​ ​other​ ​than​ ​just​ ​help you.’​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​know,​ ​YouTube​ ​isn’t​ ​the​ ​best​ ​at​ ​communication,​ ​honestly.”

Short of support from YouTube or the MCNs many channels work under, vloggers turned again to their own community to look for ways to move forward. “Most MCNs … they​ ​don’t​ ​care​ ​until​ ​it becomes​ ​a​ ​big,​ ​massive​ ​public​ ​situation,” said a prominent YouTuber.

“Everybody is just horrified, and wanting to pull together any resources,” said Melissa Hunter, who created the MommyandGracieShow channel with her daughter, “Different people with different connections in the two states involved have tried to reach out to people that they know there, and I think it’s crossed out of the family-vlogging community; just YouTubers in general are horrified.”

Update 9/13/2017: Michael and Heather Martin, who have made more than 300 questionable “prank” videos on their YouTube channel DaddyofFive, have been sentenced to five years probation for two counts of child neglect each.

The Baltimore Sun reports that, under the terms of such sentencing, the couple cannot have contact with Michael’s children, Emma and Cody, or Rose Hall, their biological mother, “unless permitted by court.” Also, any social media postings of the kids is prohibited “unless it is for legitimate family purposes.”

Lastly, Frederick County Circuit Judge Theresa M. Adams ruled that the Martins “should submit evaluations and adhere to mental health treatment as advised by their supervising agent.”

Original 4/18/2017: The parents behind DaddyOFive — a popular family-run YouTube channel that features the Martins, a Maryland family, tricking each other left and right — are under fire for allegedly taking a prank too far.

The video in question, titled “Invisible Ink Prank (Epic Freakout),” went live on April 12 (it has since been deleted), and opens with the children’s mother explaining that she is about to spray fake ink over her son’s carpet and then blame him for it (the child had accidentally spilled ink on his carpet in the past, so they were rehashing old times). She squirts the ink onto the cream carpet and then yells for her son, Cody, to come upstairs.

YouTube/DaddyOFive

“Get your f–cking a– up here,” the mom screamed. “What the f–k did you do?”

“I don’t have anything to that that with,” Cody yelled back, red in the face from crying. “I didn’t do this!”

The parents quickly turn on one of Cody’s brother, Alex, when he tried to come to his defense. “So you were f–cked up here, too?” the mom screams, before the boy begins to sob, moving to the bed with his face in his hands.

YouTube/DaddyOFive

At one point, Cody tells his “livid” father to stop — he’s holding up a camera, filming his children’s reactions. The crying goes on for a few minutes (intensifying when the father threatens to sell off the boys’ favorite toys), before their mom finally break the news, presenting the invisible ink bottle. The parents begin to laugh as the boys sit on the bed, winded and stony-faced. “We got you both,” said their mother. “You were innocent bystanders.”

YouTube/DaddyOFive

As Cody walks away, his father asks him to do the wrap up speech that is voiced at the end of every one of their videos. “Thank you guys for watching this video,” Cody said. “If you liked this video and would like to see more videos like this one, leave a comment on the section below. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.”

YouTube/DaddyOFive

The parents may have been laughing, but thousands of viewers were pretty disturbed by the video, comparing the parent’s behavior (the screaming, cursing and lying) to child abuse and exploitation — and the Internet let the family know it. Mike Martin, the father, took the video down (the original video is now back online, but all comments have since been disabled and removed) and made another video, “Blocking All the Haters!” where he and his family explained the controversy. This video is no longer available on Youtube.

In the response video, Cody and Alex’s mom asks them, “Was anybody traumatized?” The boys respond with an adamant no, denying that they were upset or harmed. “This is how we run our house,” Mike said to the camera. “They hear worse curse words in music and on T.V.”

Mike’s explanation did absolutely nothing for the Internet, though. “That video made me cry to watch him cry,” one YouTube user wrote in the comments section of the response video. “The fact that you can do that to your own child and find it funny is horrifying.”

“Exploiting your kids by putting them into acts of extreme distress for views is not okay,” another person wrote.

After this second video continued to receive criticism, the family released a statement on their Facebook page (which also has since been removed), apologizing for causing any distress. They claimed that they had a family meeting to review the video and its comments. “We discussed different alternatives for our future videos and ways we can improve,” it read. “We DO NOT condone child abuse in any way, shape or form.”

[h/t NY Post

Thomas Rhett to perform at BB&T Pavilion

The backlash to the DaddyOFive series of “prank videos” on YouTube continued this week when the father and stepmother involved lost custody of two of the five children regularly seen in the clips, according to the BBC and other news outlets.

The biological mother, Rose Hall, and her attorney Tim Conlon made the announcement in a 9-minute video of their own posted to YouTube on Monday.

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“Emma and Cody are with me,” Hall said. “I have emergency custody. They’re doing good. They’re getting back to their playful selves.”

Conlon noted that they were in court petitioning for emergency custody around the same time Friday that Mike and Heather Martin were “on USA Today with whatever spin on the issue at the moment.”

Screengrab via YouTube/for PhillyVoice

Mike and Heather Martin issued an apology on YouTube after their prank videos sparked considerable controversy last week.

The Martins – and their DaddyOFive series – entered the public consciousness in mid-April, when they posted the profanity laced “INVISIBLE INK PRANK! (EPIC FREAKOUT)” video that many perceived as emblematic of mean parenting.

Cody, who is now back with his birth mother, was the target of that prank video, and others.

YouTube would later remove that post under its bullying and harassment policies, and an online petition to have the children removed from the Martins’ custody gathered steam.

DaddyOFive’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have yet to acknowledge the recent custody issue. Hall’s video can be seen below:

A Maryland couple has temporarily lost custody of two of their children after being accused of uploading allegedly abusive videos to YouTube under the guise of “pranks.”

Mike and Heather Martin, also known on YouTube as “DaddyOFive,” became renowned for their pranking videos, which often result in the apparent humiliation of their five children.

The videos show the parents — and sometimes the older children — yelling obscenities at the younger children, playing games that result in the children hitting one another, and blaming them for making messes only to later reveal that it was only a “prank.”

The video that sparked the outrage was published to the site on April 12 and called “INVISIBLE INK PRANK.” It — along with numerous other videos on the DaddyOFive channel — has since been removed.

NBC News viewed portions of the videos which have been preserved in the form of clips on other YouTube accounts.

On April 22, Heather and Mike Martin uploaded an apology video to their nearly 800,000 subscribers, saying they had made “some terrible parenting decisions.”

The Martin family of DaddyOFive.Courtesy Martin family

“We went from something that wasn’t so bad and then we kept going more and more for the shock factor versus reality to see what could get more views,” Heather Martin said in the video. “And the kids kind of feel like some of it is their fault, and it’s not their fault. We’re the parents and we should have made better decisions.”

Just days after the apology video was posted, the family’s youngest child Cody and his sister Emma — Mike Martin’s biological children and Heather Martin’s stepchildren — were temporarily removed from the Martins’ home and placed in the custody of their biological mother, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to NBC News.

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Major Tim Clarke confirmed to NBC News that the department had received dozens of Facebook and Twitter messages claiming that the Martins’ children were being abused.

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Clarke said that the sheriff’s office does not petition for temporary protective orders and that the Frederick County Circuit Court had granted temporary custody to the children’s biological mother, Rose Hall, at her request.

“It was very heartbreaking and disturbing to see my kids being abused,” Hall said in a video with her attorney Tim Conlon, which was posted to YouTube.

Hall said Cody, who appears to often be the target of the prank videos, initially did not want to go with her because, “Mike and Heather told him that I threw him away like he was garbage and I didn’t love him no more,” she said. But eventually, he calmed down, and have been adjusting to life out of the Martin household, she added.

Clarke said there was no issue removing the children from the home.

In the video that caused the initial backlash, Heather Martin can be seen yelling at Cody over black ink stains on the child’s carpet. Cody sobs as he repeatedly tries to explain to his parents he didn’t make the ink stain. Eventually, she reveals the stains are invisible ink and will disappear.

Mike Martin tells Cody “it’s just a prank.”

The seven-minute video was removed for violating YouTube’s policy on harassment and bullying, according to FOX News. But the videos appear to show the children — primarily Cody — were subjected to what appeared to be verbal and sometimes physical altercations before the parents changed gears and explained they were “joking.”

In one video, Mike Martin is seen pushing Cody into a shelf. In another, Cody sobs in a bathtub as Mike Martin yells at him — Cody eventually says he wants to stay in the tub “for the rest of my life until I die.”

“I want to be alone. You all don’t care about me. You all don’t love me. You all don’t like me. So just go. Why are you still here? Just go,” Cody says as Mike Martin continues filming his son.

In another video, Cody is seen sitting in his bed as his father accuses him of creating a mess in his room. The bed has been stripped of sheets, and Cody sits beneath a blanket as his father yells at him. Cody sobs as he explains he didn’t create the mess.

In several of the video clips, as his father yells, Cody hides behind a pillow and cries.

Another video shows Mike Martin playing a game with his kids, in which if they don’t flip a water bottle correctly, they have to slap another child. The video shows one child slapping Cody’s sister Emma, and Emma begins to cry.

“The Martins accept full responsibility for their parenting decisions and remain transparent and cooperative with oversight agencies,” Rob Weinhold, of the Fallston Group, a Baltimore-based crisis leadership firm who is providing life coaching services for the Martins, told NBC News in an email. “Their primary focus continues to be their family during this extraordinarily difficult time. There is a significant professional services team working with the entire family, all focused on healing and a more positive future, particularly for the children.”

The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s office and Frederick County Social Services did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.