Why the fall of family vlogger Ruby Franke has become such a spectacle

A virtual preliminary hearing for Ruby Franke – the family vlogger accused of six counts of child molestation – became a viral spectacle on Friday after more than 1,000 people tried to join the livestream and dozens of people flocked to TikTok and YouTube to watch Share video live streams. Reviews and analyses.

It is the latest legal case – alongside the Gwyneth Paltrow ski accident trial and the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard libel trial – to captivate audiences online and generate a flood of lay opinions on social media. This is on TikTok hashtag #rubyfranke has garnered 3,000 posts and more than 300 million views in the last seven days. Seek Interested in Franke According to Google Trends, the numbers also rose sharply on YouTube on the day of the hearing.

Even though Franke isn’t an A-list celebrity, her hearing caught the attention of those curious to witness the dramatic fall from grace of a once-popular YouTuber and those outraged by a “momfluencer.” Having built a following by promoting her parenting online, Overall is now in crisis over alleged abuse of her own children.

The stark irony of this case, some commentators say, draws renewed attention to the dark side of family vlogging channels. In recent months, more and more voices have been expressed on the Internet about the dangers of “sharenting”. In August, Illinois passed the nation’s first law protecting child influencers. Advocates hope other states will follow.

Franke, who lives in Utah, reached an audience of over 2.5 million viewers with her now-defunct family channel “8 Passengers,” which she launched with her husband Kevin in 2015. Her six children could be seen in it. She frequently collaborated on controversial parenting and relationship advice videos with Jodi Hildebrandt and her life coaching service ConneXions.

This image from a video provided by the Utah State Courts shows Ruby Franke during a virtual court appearance on Friday, September 8, 2023 in St. George, Utah. Franke, a mother of six with a once-popular YouTube channel called "8 passengers" made her first court appearance Friday and accused her of working with the owner of a relationship consulting business to abuse and starve her two young children.
This image from the video shows Ruby Franke during a virtual court appearance on Friday in St. George, Utah.Utah State Courts via AP

Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested Aug. 30 and each charged with six counts of child molestation by the Washington County District Attorney’s Office. The arrest came after police found one of them Franke’s children with open wounds after escaping from Hildebrandt’s house. One of Franke’s other children was found in a similarly malnourished condition at Hildebrandt’s house. Four of the six children are minors and have now been placed under the care of the Utah Department of Children and Family Services.

Attorneys for Hildebrandt and Franke did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

“The fact that she [Franke] From that peak of YouTube fame and parenting guru role, from that extreme to the extreme allegations of serious child abuse… and then seeing her in prison in her overalls,” said Bonnie King, a TikTok and YouTube commentator, who focuses on true crime and family vlogging content. “It’s just an extreme decline from where she was online. I think that makes a lot of people more intrigued by the case.”

King tried to attend the live hearing herself but failed – so she joined a YouTuber’s livestream who gave an oral account of what he heard in the virtual courtroom. You then made her own viral TikTok video comment on what happened.

Laurel Cook, a social marketing researcher and associate professor at West Virginia University, said the shocking nature of Franke’s case is causing the general public to be more skeptical of parents who profit from using their children for content.

“What’s really positive about all of this is that a lot of people are putting in free hours as Internet sleuths, bringing new attention to a lot of the content that Ruby has already made available for free,” Cook said. “Now we all, myself included, are taking another look at this content from a new perspective. And that makes us all the more shocked given the recent allegations.”

…now we all, myself included, are looking at this content again from a new perspective. And that makes us all the more shocked given the recent allegations

-Laurel Cook, social marketing researcher and associate professor at West Virginia University

Many online commenters noted that child influencers do not have the same rights and regulations that child actors typically do.

“Many people are not only realizing how important this is and that this needs to be a priority because these children are the pioneers of a new form of cruelty against children in the child labor industry,” said YouTube commentator Tezzmosis, who prefers to go through his social media -name to keep his full identity secret.

Tezzmosis provided information from the hearing in a Live commentary videowho amassed a modest following of several hundred viewers at a time during the three-hour stream.

He believes much of the public interest in the case stems from the stark disconnect between the “perfect image” a parenting influencer can project online and his family’s behind-the-scenes reality.

“It was your turn [authorities’] “I was on the radar for a couple of years,” he said, referring to the messages police had previously received and responded to reports about Franke’s alleged treatment of her children.

“But I come from a wealthy family and I’m so notorious that I think it was so hard for people to believe that something so bad could be going on beneath the surface,” Tezzmosis added.

Both King and Tezzmosis said they plan to continue their social media coverage of Franke’s court appearances as best they can, whether by attending the hearings themselves or following updates from news sources.

A judge ruled last week that Franke and Hildebrandt will continue to be held without bail until their next scheduled court date on Sept. 21.

Brian Ashcraft

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