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PewDiePie and those who did nothing wrong, here we go again


Update (09/12/17): Kjellberg has released an apology video for saying a racial slur during a PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds stream. In the video, he says:

It was something that I said in the heat of the moment. I said the worst word I could possibly think of, and it just sort of slipped out. I’m not going to make any excuses for why it did, because there are no excuses for it. I’m disappointed in myself, because it seems like I’ve learned nothing from all these past controversies. And it’s not that I think I can say or do whatever I want and get away with it. I’m just an idiot. But that doesn’t make what I said, or how I said it, OK.

In other words, It “slipped out” because you’re an idiot who gets racist when he gets excited. So you’re a racist idiot then. Got it.

Original Post:

Well-known Youtuber Pewdiepie is in hot water once again following the use of the “N” word on a live stream. The clip of Felix Kjellberg shows him using the word during the stream and he quickly realised what he had said adding, “I don’t mean that in a bad way.”

This is not the first time he’s got himself into hot water. He was dropped by Disney following a stunt which involved him paying two people to hold up a sign which read “Death to all Jews”. He was also suspended from Twitter for a reference to terrorist group ISIS.

I won’t go deeply into the defenses for behavior like this. Because I think it’s indefensible. If someone makes this mistake once and genuinely tries to correct after being called out, OK they’re doing better and could be forgiven. But with a proven track record for being reprehensible that keeps getting reinforced, one has to wonder where the line is for these kinds of antics. And one also has to ask, why do marketers and advertisers continue to pump money into a system that perpetuates toxicity?

One thing that is equally irritating about this is the sycophantic reaction of the fanbases of these influencers during scandals. And this time is no different. Defenders of Pewdiepie will latch onto any shallow excuse to try and exonerate him in their own minds, and ignore or decry those calling him out. This song and dance happens every time, and boy is it tiresome to watch.

This morning the backlash intensified with co-founder of game dev Campo Santo Sean Vanaman (Firewatch) posting the following tweets.

Yes Sean, you are complicit in the rise of this behavior, as is every company who pumps money into those like PewDiePie or other influencers of questionable moral fiber. Like those who promoted gambling to their audiences and got off scot free, for now. Although the way I see it, that’s quickly going to change.

I feel the need to point out that weaponizing the DMCA system like this is pretty shaky. Developers have been dragged through the mud for trying to silence personalities before, and judging by the reaction to these tweets, it’s happening here too. Although the broader implications of this kind of actions is vital to discuss.

With so few precedents set for how Youtubers, and by extension Google, have to behave legally, we’ve left the door wide open for behavior like that of CSGO Lotto and Pewdiepie. Now to be clear, I’m not expecting hate speech laws to be brought into a legal battle with Google or specific Youtubers; the sheer volume of toxic content on Youtube would see a huge backlash from that, and it’s likely too much to ask that Youtube clean up its act entirely.

What is more likely to happen is a further shrinking of ad revenue on Youtube, and the potential for new regulation regarding disclosure and representation on social media. I can’t say when, but I won’t be surprised when it does finally happen. And it will affect everyone, not just Pewdiepie.

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