Readers who tried to find the YouTube music video of 11-year-old Reagan Smith singing "I Wanna Know" after reading about her in The Daily News were out of luck for several hours Friday.
The video, posted by producer Patrice Wilson, had been pulled by YouTube after questions arose about whether some of its 2 million-plus views were authentically generated. By late afternoon, however, the Atherton girl's family re-posted the video.
Wilson, known for producing pop-music videos that have gone viral, said in a phone interview Friday he didn't use spam or other prohibited means to bump up Reagan's view count and speculated that saboteurs did so, knowing that a suspicious YouTube would consequently pull the video.
"If people decided to spam my videos, what can I do, what protects me?" Wilson said. "I've had a bunch of threatening emails saying we're going to pull your videos down, we're going to hack into your website."
On Friday, a YouTube spokeswoman said she couldn't specifically comment on why Reagan's "I Wanna Know" video was removed but cited a company policy against trying to game the system to raise the number of people who click to a video.
According to the policy, "YouTube's Community Guidelines prohibit users from creating misleading descriptions, tags, titles, or thumbnails, in order to increase views, and from posting large amounts of untargeted, unwanted or repetitive content, including comments. YouTube removes videos and may suspend user accounts found to be in violation of those rules."
Reagan's mother, Sandra Smith, said Wilson had full control and rights to the YouTube video; the family had struck a deal that allowed Reagan to collect money from the song's sales on iTunes, which she has been donating to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital. That's where Reagan was treated for an unusual blood disorder called immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, which is now in remission.
Smith said she believes Wilson's assertion that outside spammers caused the spike in views and hopes the controversy didn't hurt the fundraising effort for the hospital. "He has been very honest and just fabulous to work with throughout the entire process and I have absolutely no reason to doubt anything that he is telling us," Smith said in an email.
Wilson said it wouldn't be the first time critics have hacked his website and email accounts. The president of PMW Live is best known for turning Orange County's Rebecca Black into an online pop star in 2011 for her "Friday" music video, which according to YouTube is up to 46 million views.
"I guess it's people who don't like what we do because they say I make crappy music and I can't write lyrics so I should stop writing songs," Wilson said. "People who just don't have nothing better to do, they're just haters."
Wilson said he charged the Smith family for producing the video and expected to make money off the song, which he wrote. Although he sometimes puts revenue-generating ads on videos he posts, Wilson said he "didn't make a dime" from the "I Wanna Know" view counts.