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Are online pranks illegal?

Many online influencers and entertainers perform pranks to appeal to their viewers. While some of these instances are considered to be in good fun, in other cases they may lead to injury, property damage, and even harsh legal reprisal. The New York Times explains when a prank crosses the line into a crime.

One case cited involved a group, who covered their faces and ran roughshod through a Long art gallery, all while shouting orders to abscond with valuable paintings. While there was no threat of an actual crime being committed, the court saw the situation differently. As a result of this prank, four of the men involved were issued jail sentences for inciting fear.

A similar incident occurred in Los Angeles when pranksters informed law enforcement of a large amount of an illicit substance in their vehicle during a traffic stop. Local police cited just how dangerous these types of pranks could be, as officers may respond with force, which could end with people hurt or even killed. Additionally, pranksters in Australia brought the ire of law enforcement after posting videos styled after those released by terrorist groups as a joke. In this case, the group was arrested and subsequently released from jail with the provision that they release no more videos.

Many of these videos are posted on YouTube, which has spoken out about the issue. While they accept prank videos on their platform, they also state that violations of terms and conditions and episodes of misconduct are not welcome on the site. However, these statements do little to deter pranksters, who are often attracted by the prospect of increasing views and popularity.

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