Though YouTube has terminated the Toy Freaks channel, the man behind that channel can take solace in the fact that he will not face criminal charges. One week after authorities in Missouri and Illinois announced an investigation into Greg Chism, they announced that the controversial videomaker will not be tried for child abuse.
On the Toy Freaks channel, Chism starred in videos alongside his two daughters, Victoria and Annabelle. These clips were often dark and uncomfortable; in some, Victoria and Annabelle simulated vomiting and physical pain. For whatever reason, these acts proved popular. Prior to its termination, it had more than 8.5 million subscribers.
Toy Freaks was one of the channels James Bridle cited in a widely-shared article that discussed inappropriate content in the children’s section of YouTube. “many, many viewers feel [Toy Freaks videos] border on abuse and exploitation, if not cross the line entirely,” Bridle wrote.
In response to the pressure it faced after the publication of Bridle’s article, YouTube terminated more than 50 channels aimed at kid viewers, including Toy Freaks. A week after Chism lost his channel, he became the subject of a criminal investigation carried out by police departments in both Illinois (where Chism used to live) and Missouri (where he lives now).
Ultimately, law enforcement officials determined that Chism’s case required no child abuse charges. “In a cooperative effort with the Granite City, Illinois, Police Department, and after consulting with prosecutors in Illinois, Missouri, and the US Attorney’s Office, it has been determined there were no criminal violations,” a spokesperson for the St. Charles County, Missouri, Police Department told BuzzFeed. “St. Charles County Police Department is not investigating Mr. Chism or the Toy Freaks YouTube channel.”
Had he been charged, Chism would not have been the first creator to get into legal trouble related to the treatment of his children. Last year, the Maryland parents behind the DaddyOFive YouTube channel received five years probation and lost custody of two children after prank videos targeting those children were determined to constitute child neglect.