There will always be online scam artists — and people who refuse to play by a platform’s rules — but some serial Terms of Service abusers are objectionably worse than others. They force tech giants to rewrite their code, cost individual users hundreds of thousands of dollars, and at their very worst, can waste local police resources. (Oh, and they also threaten journalists, but more on that later.)
Take 30-something-year-old Brian Martin, who was sued for $20 million dollars last year over the “videogames” YouTube channel, and is now appealing the judgement in Louisiana’s 5th circuit Court of Appeal. Martin currently operates the Top Trends and FuturisticHub channels, according to official documentation, and appears to have used the FuturisticHub YouTube account to swat gaming celebrity Ice Poseidon last month.
Readers may recall last year’s coverage of Martin and the “videogames” lawsuit he lost, after the jury found him guilty of breach of contract and fraud, among other infractions. At the time many in the YouTube community rejoiced the judgement, viewing it as karmic retribution for all his misdeeds (which were unrelated to the lawsuit). So far though, it looks like nothing has changed: Martin is still on the platform, still wreaking havoc, still making people’s lives a nightmare.
For those unfamiliar, the FuturisticHub name gained infamy in the YouTube community in 2016 for an animated Minecraft porn clip and for harassing minor gaming celebrities with threats of hacking, doxxing, the leaking of revenge porn and physical violence to children. Already cringe-worthy and gray area illegal stuff (I write “gray area” because revenge porn isn’t illegal in every state), but his history of abusing the YouTube platform, and other YouTubers, extends to at least 2009 as previously documented on Forbes and the Daily Dot.
Martek and “Life in a Tent” are prior names he’s operated under in the years between 2009 and 2012, when he was a well-known botter either by operating his own botting service or paying others to bot his enemies, something he finally admitted to in an email exchange with me on Forbes last year. YouTube began cracking down on botting in 2011, in part because of the prevalence of services like the ones Martin was peddling. Also in 2011 and 2012, Martin and his wife created and popularized the “Reply Girls,” a phenomenon where young women exploited the Related videos and tagging system on YouTube by way of their copious cleavage. Some girls just wore a bra in videos, and at its height, even robot-animated Reply Girls were participating in the click-baiting. YouTube eventually shut down all of the Reply Girls as a kind of titty spam, by rewriting the Tag system, Related videos algorithm, and what constitutes as a “view.”
Gawker readers may know his twin brother Kevin Martin, who is known among meteorologists and weather reporters for harassing them as well as the National Weather Service office building and creating fake weather reports about natural disasters that mimic official government websites. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) even had to send out a memo about the Martins in 2011. Kevin Martin’s fake weather alerts about a fake hurricane prompted YouTube to rewrite their Terms of Service to explicitly include false weather reports as a violation.
Eventually YouTube will get around to terminating the accounts associated with the various Martins, but Martin and his clan will just make new ones with YouTube apparently none the wiser. People who have been banned by YouTube work around the ban by hiring others to run their channels for them, or getting family members to do so. (Another example of someone doing this would be Keemstar.) In Martin’s case, his wife signed the contract FuturisticHub and Top Trends have with the MCN Fullscreen. Martin has operated at least 6 different YouTube channels at this point, but if you include family members, the number of accounts (including suspected sock puppets) is in the dozens.
YouTube did not respond to a request for comment about Martin’s longstanding abusive pattern on the platform, but in previous statements said they took all Terms of Service violations seriously. Martin’s exploitation of YouTube trends and algorithms could be described as brilliant, but YouTube’s bug bounty program does not pay out anywhere near what Martin currently earns with his current accounts. It is unclear how much Martin has cost YouTube over the years, and as many will point out, bad actors are just the cost of doing business.
Swatting and lawsuits, however, have an easier to determine cost.
Within a week of Ice Poseidon being swatted at the airport, he was swatted again while in a car dealership parking lot, and in the woods, thanks in part to Martin who appears to have repeatedly shared Ice Poseidon’s address on his million-plus followers FuturisticHub account along with boasts that he had already called the police and that his fans should do the same too. While it is true screenshots can be faked, the ones linked above appear to be authentic.
Swatting costs local police departments (and tax payers) at least $10,000 per incident. In 2012, a swatting incident on Ashton Kutcher’s home cost $15,000 according to local police. That incident prompted California lawmakers in 2013 to pass state legislation making Swatters liable for $10,000 of the cost.
A 2012 report by Oregon-based news channel KEPR estimated on average each swatting attempt in their state cost $12,000, with a yearly total that year of $300,000 in wasted resources. One 2015 incident in Colorado cost 25,000, while one in sleepy Rochester, New York cost $15,000 once the ambulance and fire department were factored in. Swatting has only increased in prevalence since then.
To be fair to Martin, he wasn’t the only one boasting about and allegedly swatting Ice Poseidon. The gamer celebrity has unfortunately become the target du jour of a 40,000+ member forum dedicated to swatting and hacking.
As for the appeal, Brandon Keating, who originally sued Martin as a last resort to get his investment in the “videogames” channel back (a measly investment of $1,500!), estimates he’s spent about $85,000 so far on legal fees and owes another $120,000. “I’m so ready for this all to be over,” Keating wrote in a private DM recently. In April right after the verdict, Kevin Martin messaged him and threatened to murder Keating and his family if he didn’t drop the case against his twin brother. (Again, I have reviewed the messages and it is my professional opinion they are authentic and not doctored screencaps.)
That type of language and behavior is old hat at this point.
Martin did not respond to a request for comment.
Martin eventually responded to the original publication of this post on Forbes with a slew of legal threats, repeated references to my death and the destruction of my career. Other members of his family, and the outward face of Top Trends Cameron Grant, also participated in a barrage of harassment and threats over 5 days that culminated in the Forbes post being taken down. I have reuploaded it here, with a few more hedging words and sentences, in the hopes that it will maintain a record of this abuser and prevent Martin from taking advantage of anyone else in the YouTube space.