YouTube Red and Disney have both dropped vlogger PewDiePie, following controversy surrounding reports of antisemitic messages in his videos.
The Swedish YouTuber, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, is one of the most popular video creators on the site, with 53 million subscribers and counting. He is estimated to earn over £10 million a year, partly from his joint venture with Disney-owned Maker Studios: a multi-channel network called Revelmode. He was also one of the first YouTubers to be signed up for YouTube Red, the site’s premium subscription service, with his own exclusive original Red show, titled Scare PewDiePie.
Now, though, both Disney’s Maker Studios and YouTube Red have dropped the vlogger following an antisemitic video stunt. The Wall Street Journal investigated several of the vlogger’s videos, which included one featuring “two men laughing as they held a banner that read ‘Death to all Jews'”. This was reportedly paid for using a crowd-sourcing website in India, which Kjellberg defended as a joke.
“I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online. I picked something that seemed absurd to me — That people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars,” he wrote in a blog post at the start of the week.
“I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.”
The Journal reported that Kjellberg uploaded others featuring similar remarks, not as ideological statements by him but for their shock effect. The Guardian added that PewDiePie’s videos have also “made him popular with neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer”.
In response, Maker Studios have decided to end its partnership with the vlogger. They said in a statement to Variety: “Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”
YouTube has followed suit, cancelling the second season of Scare PewDiePie and also removed the channel from YouTube Red. YouTube has also stopped any advertising on these videos, although Kjellberg’s channel will remain live and he can still generate income from traditional YouTube adverts on his other videos.
“I make videos for my audience. I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary,” he said in his blog post. “I know my audience understand that and that is why they come to my channel. Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”
Photo: Screencap from PewDiePie’s most recent video