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Real or Robot: The LisaNova Controversy

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Lisa Donovan, who gained notoriety posting her sketch comedy stylings on YouTube as LisaNova, has been accused of trying to inflate her numbers on the site. In a video posted by the notorious Trevor Rieger (reposted here), he shows dozens of ‘ghost’ accounts with no activity save for a subscription to LisaNova’s channel, as well as repeated generic comments on other YouTube user channels across the site. Neither Donovan nor YouTube responded to questions sent via email.

Of course, Rieger is busy promoting his own site,, and has certainly leveraged attacks on other YouTube users and the site itself to become widely known as “the most banned person on YouTube.” What’s remarkable is that Donovan has managed to turn her YouTube show into work on MadTV — the thousands of comments from just a few days seem like a strange and unnecessary move.

YouTube’s terms of service expressly forbid using any automated software for gathering user names or submitting more requests to YouTube’s servers than realistic for a human user, though using ‘refreshers‘ to drive up views in order to get a higher ranking in search results is a common practice. Popular YouTuber Cory “Mr. Safety” Williams has admitted to doing this as late as April. Those who game YouTube or make naked appeals for popularity are known in the community as ‘cheaters’ or ‘chuds.’

There’s also scads of scripts and other software, such as TellyAdder, Tubeinator, Legaladder and Tubestar, for garnering friends, subscribers and generating automated comments.

This kind of drama on YouTube is nothing new, and creative talent going to any length to promote themselves and their work is a time-honored tradition. Technology is just making it easier or sleazier — whichever side of the debate you sit on.

11 Responses to “Real or Robot: The LisaNova Controversy”

  1. Two points.

    1) The LisaBot thing was annoying to a lot of people, and “you’d expect better from someone who’s talented and has done well out of YT” seems to be a common sentiment (along with “stop spamming me!”). Perhaps it’s a reflection of how ephemeral web-lebrity fame is that even the “big guns” are scrambling for every possible angle. I have seen some amusingly aware LisaBot spam (weird affirmations, signed off as LisaBot) and the fact that she’s obliquely referencing the Bot tickles me a little. But still, give it a rest.

    2) The flip side is that the whole ‘EXPOSE’ thing has become a sour little cottage industry. I think the average YT-er is past the point of being shocked that Lonelygirl might be an actor, or some account might be guerrila marketing for a movie, that someone might be older or younger, or pretending to be something else…. But we’re left with a ‘police force’ of users fixated on the notion that most success is “undeserved” and that someone else deserves it more, even though the “it” is “not what YouTube is supposed to be about…”

    This video by MTV funnyguy Andy Milonakis wailing on another self-appointed exposer is a funny take on just how joyless some of the more fake-obsessed end of the YT community have become…