It’s not been a good week for Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg. The Swedish YouTube personality was dumped yesterday by Disney over a series of anti-semitic jokes, and now YouTube has cancelled the second season of his paid subscription show Scare PewDiePie, pulled ads from the offending videos, and removed his channel from its own “brand-safe” Google Preferred premium advertising program.
The videos, spanning several months, included Nazi salutes, swastikas, and random footage of Hitler’s speeches, but the most egregious featured an Indian comedy duo working out of Israeli online freelancer and entrepreneur service Fiverr, holding up a sign that read “Death to all Jews”. According to a report over on Polygon, the two men were subsequently banned from Fiverr’s service, and released their own video apologising for the incident, and explaining that they didn’t even understand at the time what the sign meant. Kjellberg later “personally intervened” on Twitter to have them reinstated. That wasn’t contrition enough for Disney and YouTube, however.
“This is an age-old story in the advertising world: A company finds that one of the celebrities it sponsors has an image problem,” Cornell law professor James Grimmelmann told Wired. “The first twist is that streaming stars are now big enough that they raise the same issues as more ‘traditional’ stars. The second twist is that YouTube is both a platform and a content creator; its response reflects an attempt to make that line clear again.”
Kjellberg has since claimed on Tumblr that “I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes”, and that the video was “trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online”.
How the controversy will affect him is a matter of speculation for the moment. Kotaku points out that per-view income from Kjellberg’s video content isn’t much due to his not exactly family-friendly humour limiting advertising opportunities, but his reputation is another thing entirely.