YouTube cancels series with PewDiePie over anti-Semitic remarks
Move comes after similar one by Walt Disney over video blogger’s posts
PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, made an estimated $15 million in 2016 from broadcasting videos of himself playing video games to 53 million subscribers on YouTube.
YouTube has cancelled a series with its highest-earning star PewDiePie, following a similar move by Walt Disney, after the Swedish video blogger posted a series of offensive videos containing anti-Semitic remarks.
PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, made an estimated $15 million in 2016 from broadcasting videos of himself playing video games to 53m subscribers on YouTube.
The 27-year-old was currently in the process of filming the second season of the original YouTube series Scare PewDiePie, for its Red subscription service, which was to be produced by the Disney-owned network, Maker Studios.
“We’ve decided to cancel the release of Scare PewDiePie Season 2 and we’re removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred,” a YouTube spokesperson said.
Google Preferred is the company’s premier advertising network, allowing its top brands to advertise against the most popular content on YouTube.
YouTube’s cancellation of Scare PewDiePie 2 would cost the video blogger millions of dollars, according to sources close to the company.
Mr Kjellberg had also been working on a joint multichannel broadcast venture with Disney’s Maker Studios since 2014, which allowed him to run his own network known as Revelmode, producing apps, videos and branded merchandise.
A spokesperson for Maker Studios said: “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.”
The videos under fire include one posted on YouTube on January 11th, featuring two Indian men hired for £5 to hold a banner proclaiming “Death to all Jews”. Another, posted on January 22, featured a man dressed as Jesus Christ who said: “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong”.
Both videos were taken down by Mr Kjellberg himself, following a Wall Street Journal investigation showing the YouTuber had posted nine anti-Semitic videos in the past six months.
“I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online,” he said, in a blog post. “I picked something that seemed absurd to me - that people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars . . . I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.”
YouTube is trying to straddle the line between honouring its free speech policies, while also taking a hard line against hate speech, following pressure from EU regulators to clamp down against inflammatory content.
The Google-owned video site said it had reviewed Mr Kjellberg’s video featuring the “Death to all Jews” poster, but found it to be satirical, rather than inciting violence.
However, the company has pulled all advertising in the video, deeming it to have “violated advertiser policies”.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017