Let’s talk about Pewdiepie and “inappropriate” content on YouTube


Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg is in trouble again but this time it’s more than just a threat to delete his own channel that has him making headlines.

In case you’ve missed the furore that has captured the internet’s attention for the last 48 hours here’s what has been going on; a Wall Street Journal revealed how Kjellberg had paid two men in India to hold up a sign that read “Death to All Jews”.

The YouTuber admits he requested the men to do the video through Fiverr – a website that lets users post odd jobs they’re willing to pay $5 for. By Kjellberg’s own admission the video was meant to illustrate that folks would do anything for money.

The trouble with this little experiment is that isn’t the first time the creator has used offense to get views and that the network Kjellberg is associated with – Maker Studios – has now severed ties with the creator. According to another YouTuber, Ethan Klein, this was done before context was given regarding the offending videos.

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“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,” a Maker Studios spokesperson was quoted as saying in a report by TechCrunch.

YouTube has also put some distance between it and Kjellberg. The platform cancelled the second season of his YouTube Red show Scare Pewdiepie and removed him from its Premium Advertising programme.

When does content become inappropriate?

The trouble with Maker Studios’ claim above is that it has yet another “inappropriate” star on it’s roster – Ian “iDubbbz” Carter.

Carter has made a name for himself on the platform through shows such as Content Cop, Bad Unboxing and Kickstarter Crap. His content is highly controversial and he is not afraid to use some of the more colourful words in the English language.

Now to be clear, we are not throwing knives at Carter here but we’d like to draw a bit of a comparison to Kjellberg’s offence.

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As fate would have it Carter has recently released a video which could easily be stamped “inappropriate”. The video below contains a lot of offensive language and imagery, sensitive viewers should watch the video with caution.

To offer a bit of context in regards to Carter’s content. The phrase the creator uses – ni**er fa**ot – was an insult used against the creator. Carter adopted the phrase.

Carter has 3.7 million subscribers while Kjellberg has 53 million at time of writing and this begs the question, was Kjellberg’s content deemed inappropriate simply because he has more viewers?

One could argue that because Kjellberg is more likely to appear in the public eye he has a greater responsibility to create appropriate content. The trouble is that Kjellberg built his brand on being inappropriate through his naughty swears and behaving like a mad man while playing video games.

Of course Maker Studios and Kjellberg could have a had a contract which stipulates that the creator needs to make his content appropriate but that creates even more questions.

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At the end of the day Kjellberg is just a guy that happened upon success on YouTube, he’s a gamer that makes bad joke not a politician that needs to watch what he says in the fear that it might be taken out of context.

The context of content is still important

Both Kjellberg and Carter make content that needs to be looked as a whole. Videos from creators such as these two do not exist in a vacuum, they form part of a series much like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones does.

Without knowing why a creator is saying the things they do anything could be seen as inappropriate. Kjellberg even addressed the media labeling him a racist in December a video which could be seen as inappropriate if taken out of context.

The future of YouTube’s biggest star now hangs in the balance because neither YouTube nor Maker Studios looked at his content in the context it was being created.

“I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary. I know my audience understand that and that is why they come to my channel,” Kjellberg wrote on his blog.

“As laughable as it is to believe that I might actually endorse these people [hate-based groups], to anyone unsure on my standpoint regarding hate-based groups: No, I don’t support these people in any way.”

I will concede that Kjellberg made a bad joke and that paying people on Fiverr to make religious slurs is not something that anybody should do. However, I do feel as if Kjellberg is being treated unfairly and ties were severed because context was lacking. The trouble I have is that the reason Maker Studios gave is not consistent with the other ‘Tubers it has on its roster.

To threaten somebody’s livelihood which has been built on being “inappropriate” when it has been well documented through video just smacks of unfairness, especially when there are comedians around the world that fill up stadiums and sell millions of DVDs by being “inappropriate”.

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