Whether it wants to be or not, YouTube is a guardian of internet history, with countless classic videos sitting in its archives. That makes it jarring when the company acts like what it is: a multinational corporation with no real understanding of this value. Case in point, this week, YouTube removed the original upload of the “Ah fuck, I can’t believe you’ve done this” meme, initially rejecting an appeal from its creator (and the guy who can’t believe this was done) and claiming that the clip violates the company’s “violent or graphic content policy.”
In the words of Paul Weedon himself, star of and uploader of the original video: Ah, fuck. “It’s completely out of the blue,” Weedon told The Verge regarding the takedown. “I made the case that it’s been online going on 15 years and is basically part of internet culture.”
Weedon tweeted out the news of the takedown and his unsuccessful appeal, noting that the video had been on YouTube for 14 years and racked up 12 million views in that time with “no issues whatsoever.”
Following up: this was a mistake on our end and your video is back up. We’re so sorry about the frustration this caused & have shared feedback with the team to prevent similar mistakes in the future. Look out for an email from us with more soon.— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) September 29, 2021
The clip is a classic: low-res, contextless, and instantly funny. And, of course, countless re-uploads still exist (alongside the other, legitimately horrible content that YouTube is happy to leave up).
The video has been remixed and re-memed in countless ways since it first went viral in the mid-2010s, and Weedon himself has an interesting relationship with the content. In an article for Vice published earlier this year, he describes how the clip was part of a series of “stunts” he and his friends filmed in the vein of Jackass and how he sold the original rights for the video to the now-defunct Break.com and isn’t now sure who even owns the IP.
“At the time, going viral wasn’t really comparable to any other experience and it certainly wasn’t something I could discuss in solidarity with my friends,” writes Weedon. “All of a sudden you’re everywhere and it’s out of your control. You either try to fight it and get destroyed or embrace it and try to cash in. After yanking down several other videos on my YouTube channel, I opted for the latter.”
To add insult to injury, Weedon is currently exploring the possibility of making a documentary about the meme, so the takedown added a little twist to the proceedings. “This takes things in a completely different direction,” he tells The Verge. “It says a lot about where YouTube is going. On Twitter, people seem to be saying the same thing: that this is a video that represents what YouTube used to be, and they’ve torched it.”
Weedon says he’s found all the footage from the day the meme was shot and that he and a group of friends are still exploring how to tell the story. “We’re still figuring out what we want to do with it,” he says. “Though, I definitely regret promising the documentary would be coming ‘soon’ in the teaser. I forgot how impatient people on the internet can be.”
Update, September 29th, 6:13AM ET: Updated the story with comment from Weedon.
Update, September 29th, 1:15PM ET: Updated the story to reflect the video’s reinstatement and added a statement from YouTube.