PewDiePie used a racial slur on livestream. Is he a liability for YouTube?
YouTube’s most popular content producer, Felix Kjellberg, has had a rough time in 2017.
He had his contract with Disney-owned Maker Studios terminated after an anti-Semitic joke aired on his channel in mid-February. Then after half a year without incident, Pewdiepie announced he would stop making Nazi jokes because of the Nazis marching in Charlottesville (but not before getting in a few of his own). Apparently, no one informed Felix about the KKK present at the rally, so he ended up using the N-Word in a recent livestream of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.
When Felix had his contract with Makers studios terminated, several prominent YouTubers came to his defense, such as Boogie2988, Markiplier, and more. This event was followed up by another prominent YouTuber, Jon “JonTron” Jafari, started making headlines for his consistent repetition of alt-right talking points.
Soon after, YouTube was making headlines, because advertisers like Walmart, Verizon, and McDonalds started pulling their ads from the online video platform due to ads being found on videos with racist or violent content. Channels have cited the resultant loss of ad revenue as a primary reason for their departure from YouTube.
Now YouTube’s biggest star has made headlines again for using a racial epithet.
Not only have YouTubers such as Matt Collins of Nerd3, “Angry” Joe Vargus, Danny O’Dwyer, and more condemned Felix for his words and actions as of late; some like Jim Sterling have even started claiming that PewDiePie is a liability for everyone else who uses YouTube to obtain their income because of his new racist image. “It’s because of shit like this that the ‘adpocolypse’ is happening where people’s videos are being flagged as inappropriate for advertisers, because advertisers don’t anything to do with [inappropriate content]… I worry [government regulation]is coming for YouTube, and I worry it’s gonna be the fault of people like PewDiePie who keep getting attention for shit like this.”
Fellow content creators aren’t the only ones lashing out at the embattled Swede. Sean Vanaman, one of the co-founders of game development studio Campo Santo, announced that the development studio will be issuing a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice on PewDiePie’s video that shows him playing the game they developed, Firewatch.
Vanaman tweeted that PewDiePie ‘s actions had passed a “breaking point”. Legally, most lawyers agree that the game developers are within their rights to issue takedowns of the Let’s Play videos, but many worry that this move may force precedents to be set in the legally un-explored area of Let’s Play videos. Vanaman defended his decision saying, “I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make… He’s worse than a closeted racist: he’s a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around the industry.”
Backing up Vanaman’s last point is an article from GameInformer magazine. In the Opinion piece, author Javy Gwaltney said, “Gaming’s problem with toxicity is not a secret. Anytime you load up Counter-Strike, Overwatch, DOTA 2, PUBG, Call of Duty, you’re opening yourself up to the possibility you will hear insults, racial slurs, and other bigoted remarks… This is a problem in our backyard, one that we’ve cultivated over two decades by letting trash talk fester into something toxic… It’s a failure on the part of gamers to step up during multiplayer matches, in forums, in public places when someone screams racial slurs because they’re angry or having ‘a heated moment.’ And it is also, let’s be very clear about this, a failure on the part of major outlets like ourselves to work toward making video games a place where everyone feels welcome.”
In his apology video for his joke in February where he paid people to hold a sign saying, “Death to all Jews” (which has since been made private), Felix said, “I’m sorry for the words that I used as I know they offended people… And I’ve definitely made mistakes like this before. But it’s always been a growing and learning experience for me… and it’s something I’m going to keep in mind moving forward.”
Now in his new apology video (which has not been made private at the time of publishing), he states, “It was something that I said in the heat of the moment… it just sorta slipped out. I’m not gonna make any excuses to why it did, because there are no excuses for it.”
In light of the sequence of events that have played out over 2017, the most poignant statement from the apology video is, “I’m disappointed in myself, because it seems like I’ve learned nothing from all these past controversies…”
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