YouTubers Worry About Blowback From New Pewdiepie Controversy

YouTubers Worry About Blowback From New Pewdiepie Controversy

Between the “adpocalypse” that drained advertising money from YouTube, and highly-publicised fiascos involving popular content creators, YouTube’s had a rocky 2017. Now, many who make a living off the website are dreading the fallout from the latest Pewdiepie debacle. The question many are grappling with at the moment: Has the face of YouTube itself become a liability for the platform?

Yesterday, a clip featuring Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg playing Battlegrounds went viral. In the footage, the Swedish star calls another player the N-word in a fit of frustration. The clip exploded on social media for obvious reasons: Here was a YouTuber with 57 million subscribers largely consisting of kids and teens, using a racial slur very casually. In response to that, one indie developer announced that it would try to cut off Kjellberg’s access to its games, and urged for other developers to take the same measures against the popular YouTuber.

Plenty of debates have cropped up among people reacting to the situation. Some have debated what is acceptable to say during aggravating gameplay moments. Some argue that keeping certain words out of your vocabulary should never be an issue, while others admit that they, too, have said regrettable things while playing a game online. There are those who feel tired that someone like Kjellberg, who now has a history of objectionable conduct, continues to dominate headlines and dictate public discourse. Others, meanwhile, are arguing that gaming as a whole has a problem with racial slurs, and that it’s unfortunately common for large games to have awful chats.

On YouTube, Kjellberg has cracked deep enough fault lines that the community seems primed for an earthquake any moment now. As always, Kjellberg does have defenders, some of whom believe using the N-word does not make you a racist. Notably, though, personalities aren’t all coming to bat over what Kjellberg said. Instead, some people are denouncing the slur and expressing disappointment:

Many seem worried that this incident will have long-standing ramifications for everyone on the platform:

If YouTubers sound wary, it’s because they have already been put through the wringer this year. After the Wall Street Journal reported on Kjellberg’s Nazi references, many large advertisers pulled out from the platform. Enormous channels and small outfits alike felt the consequences, with many creators reporting that their earnings on YouTube plummeted for months. More recently, companies started coming back to YouTube, and ad revenue started to bounce back. Even so, many YouTubers are still operating under a tightened belt thanks to strict monetisation guidelines that make it difficult for video-game-focused-channels to make a living.

Kjellberg, many argue, sets precedent on the platform by virtue of being the biggest channel. Some personalities would hesitate to say the “adpocalypse” was Kjellberg’s fault, but nobody can ignore just how visible his specific channel was during that period of time. He may not even want this responsibility, but the sheer size of his audience grants him that importance anyway. Whatever happens to Kjellberg could happen to anybody.

There’s more than advertiser money at stake: Depending on what happens next, Kjellberg’s action could impact the entire YouTube landscape. There’s the legal aspect — if the indie developer prohibiting Kjellberg from playing its games goes to court, could that case have an effect on all other channels who do Let’s Play-style videos? Will more developers take a stand against YouTubers who play their games? Will YouTube itself step in and dictate more rules about what is allowed on the platform, or how its users are allowed to act? Nobody knows. YouTubers, even the ones who don’t blurt out racial slurs during game time, feel that they are at the mercy of forces beyond their control.

For now, the YouTube machine will keep spinning:

YouTubers Worry About Blowback From New Pewdiepie Controversy


  • Strange that this article doesn’t touch upon the DMCA issue of the whole saga, even though it included a tweet from boogie about it.

    That should be scarier for YouTube stars than some curse words.

    • it’s briefly referenced in the 2nd paragraph, and Kotaku already have a story up about it that’s still the #1 trending story.

    • Despite the controversy over DMCA, there is precedent of this… the developer has every right to strike down any lets play style gameplay videos they so choose too. This is all thanks to Nintendo agreements with Youtube. (Nintendo will strike any channel that uses their gameplay or music without signing up to their program… which includes rules on language)

      A content creator has the right to claim fair use but has to prove their work is transformative which is okay for a games journo /critic… but for someone who is also being abusive and racist in their content has no chance cause I doubt the N word is considered creative content.

      • not if the developer has a statement on their webpage expressly encouraging streaming their game as well as the monetising the stream.
        The dev doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

        • How about don’t make legal statements or judgements unless you’re an expert on US copyright law and how it applies to the DMCA specifically as well.

          I think I’ll defer to the lawyers on this one, as you should before claiming to know the legal relevance of an FAQ (It is not a statement, fyi.)

          • go right ahead.

            I mean, I only got that information from a US copyright attorney Leonard French. but what would he know?

  • the amount of time I hear that sort of vile racist thought in game, plus sexist rubbish being spoken aloud, (either serious or apparent joking), or even NAZI crap. I some times wonder if I am the only grown up left actually playing games. Whatever can be done to combat the perceived notion that this is acceptable in 2017 is for the better. If in doing it creates issues for youtubers, sad to say, but its necessary. While I understand there is a grander point in which such an action can open the door to trouble, the amount frustration and badness this racism and sexism rubbish fosters in the community is overwhelming and destructive

    • I don’t agree with this comment. It is full of hyperbole and unsubstantiated generalisations. Unconstrained censorship to protect individual sensibilities and morality is a poorly considered reaction.

      Kotaku censored my original response, so a big thumbs up to them.

      • That’s a nicer reply than questioning whether people are adults. It’s our responsibility to make sure people don’t flood the comments section with rubbish, and it states quite clearly in the community guidelines that we’re not going to put up with name-calling, personal attacks, trolling, and so forth.

      • Pew obviously didn’t learn his lesson from his last screw up, so funny enough my respect sorry tolerance of his position is couldn’t position get any lower. And my ability to show any sort of compassion or empathy to someone who uses the N word is even lower.

        I always wonder who is worse: the person who uses such terms or those who defend their usage or standby in game chat and say nothing in response.

        • These are two very different scenarios though. The nazi thing was clearly a joke, using this lovely derogatory term off the cuff is a sign that he uses it in his day to day or atleast semi regularly.

          As someone who thought that his previous indiscretions were largely inocuous, this isn’t particularly acceptable.

    • Controversy = traffic

      To be fair, stories about the majority of normal people who don’t do this sort of thing wouldn’t attract you would it.

      We all play games and we all know that the one round where somebody did something wrong is more fun to talk about than the hundreds of uneventful rounds inbetween.

      If you really have to wonder, then you are just drinking your own cool aid.

  • as a youtuber, its things like this that have started this whole ‘adpocalypse’ with advertisers trying to stay away from gaming channels.

    Never watched the guy, but all the negatives, seems his actual employer, Youtube should be doing something about this.

    • I completely agree. I’m only small time here but the main point is I am white as fuck and I can’t use that word without it being derogatory! Even when playing with black dudes who freely use it as colloquialism – its a no no. I have roughly 57 million followers less than Pewdiepie but i still maintain my own integrity as a person ffs. I’ve also held down multiple jobs for years too… Like to see Felix do that lmao

      What’s your channel man I didnt know youre on youtube but seen you comment around here

      • its Mad Mikeey Gaming

        Generally do gaming news reactions and retro gaming collection videos if that’s your thing

        • Oh geez i forgot about this im barely on kotaku anymore!!! Too busy!

          Haha you seem to have a good sense of humour – im brad plays everything and just subbed! keep it up man!

    • Hello! Meaning no offense to you. Please do not first say you have never seen his videos, then proceed to support youtube ending his career. All of the dramas that have happened have been responded to in a formal and mature way on Felix’s channel. Video’s for both the February drama and now are titled “my response”.
      When he is being serious, pewdiepie is very humble, he treats his subscribers very well and has helped many YouTube’s grow their careers. He has raised millions of dollars for charity. For the last few months he has been earning hardly any money from his uploads due to demonitization. Not that I in any way condone the language he used in this instance, just please do not think that his career should end as a result of a slip up in a live stream after hours of recording in front of many thousands of people.

      • Hey Skyla,

        I don’t think at any point did i say that he should be pulled down. But i will elaborate further.

        I work a full time job, if i do something wrong, i certainly don’t get to the point where my pay is short for the pay week like youtubers. But I would certainly be bought into a room and either have a long talk about my actions or be walked out of the building never to return.

        Most recent cases of celebrities being caught out using racist language….
        (I do agree with these outcomes by the way)

        Donald Stirling – Owner of the NBA franchise LA CLippers
        Had a call recording of him and his girlfriend having a fight about her sitting with people of a different race (sure you get the point) The NBA made him sell his franchise due to this. So he was in fact the owner of this company and the NBA forced him to sell.

        Hulk Hogan – WWE Legend
        Again the case of using bad words describing other humans. Fired from the company many would argue built to the success it is along with having his hall of fame status revoked, along with a vow he would never work for the company again.

        I understand people make mistakes, we are all human after all. But all i am saying is there needs to be consequences and this is a second strike for the guy. Meanwhile i am having my videos demonetized based on the fact of being about gaming and not having them monetized/suggested until 2 days later when its old news.

        • Pewdiepie has in fact had very serious consequences. Most of his videos for a while after the drama in February were demonitised. His entire season of Scare pewdiepie2 was cancelled, even though it was already made, shot and ready to upload. HE was kicked out of his studio in London when Disney cut their ties with him. These things didn’t just stop him from making as much money- they represent losses of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.
          Pewdiepie is not a celebrity, at least not in the way an actor or politician is a celebrity.
          Pewdiepie relatable to the average person. He is socially awkward, and go big by videoing himself playing horror games in his room! He never planned to become famous or influential through this. He is very personal and relaxed with his fan base, something you never see in conventional celebrities. People think that now that he is popular, he has to be politically spotless and never saying anything wrong, ever. This is so high a standard.

          • Skyla, i appreciate you input on the situation. I just think your missing or not wanting to see the point.

            On two different occasions in the last year, he has been caught out making racial comments. In todays society, this gets your average joe fired from his job. I understand that PewDiePie has done good with his money and helped a lot of people. But there has to be a point where he gets told by his employer (Youtube) enough is enough.

            If someone has fans, they are considered a celebrity.

            Dictionary meaning:
            noun: celebrity; plural noun: celebrities
            a famous person, especially in entertainment or sport.
            the state of being well known.
            “his prestige and celebrity grew”

            Demonetization is definitely a form of punishment, but not a loss of income.

      • If the dude can ‘accidentally’ spout vile slurs, it’s because he says them on the regular off-camera.

    • The election started the adpocolypse actually.
      (Awesome name by the way)

      The entire thing depended on controlling the flow of information (or missinformation). Outlets like YouTube are counterproductive and both of the so called sides spent a lot of money and effort in curbing the effects of non sanctioned information.

      So on one hand they were funneling money in to elements that supported them, while actively attempting to cut the legs off those who don’t.

      What surprised me is that coverage skewed towards advertisers not wanting their ads on hate speech videos, but it was actually advertisers demanding more say in where their ads were played.

  • These people somehow make money from their gaming channels on a free internet, with none of the hassles of settimg up, hosting and advertising their websites, and then PewDiePie goes and rocks the boat.

  • PewDiePie continues to strike me as a shit human being. I’m obviously not a fan, and any of his content I have seen has been a result of him acting like a shit person, which is happening with more and more regularity.

  • Ahahaha, did you really just lump Sky Williams’ reaction in the “dissapointment” section??

    Anyway, I think this goes to show more the flaws of YouTube than anything. If one man with one word can make all the creators on a platform fear for their careers, then I’m pretty sure there’s something hugely wrong with that platform.
    It most just comes down to communication. Youtube is notoriously bad when it comes to communicating with their creators. With the recent adpocalypse, youtube still to this day has only vaguely answered what will and won’t get your videos demonetised, which leaves a lot of creators scratching their heads when certain videos get demonetised and others that are quantifiably “worse” to them don’t. They have no idea if any future videos they upload will or won’t get demonetised, which could be make or break for them.

    There is a perception held by a lot of youtubers that youtube cares about advertisers first, creators second. That because of the monopoly youtube has on this industry it pretty much singlehandedly created, it doesn’t need to maintain relationships with its creators because even if creators wanted to leave, there’s not really anywhere else for them to go, and even if they did leave, there would be plenty of other youtubers that would spring up in their place.

    Honestly if we do end up with Adpocalypse 2.0 out of this, I think it could actually be a good thing. You may see a ton of youtubers finally give up on youtube, move to, or even create entirely new competing platforms, maybe we’ll start to see some of the creator/platform relationships the industry really needs to help legitimise it.

    It’s all teething issues, really. It’s an industry that’s only existed for the last ~5 years and seen such massive growth during that. Everyone’s still trying to figure out how this whole “anyone can be a celebrity” democrotisation of media should work. We’re probably going to see a lot more of these issues pop up over the next year or two, but hopefully things will smooth out for everyone involved soon.

  • Not surprised at all. If you’re only just noticing now that PDP is racist garbage, you’re not paying attention.

  • Huh. The saying about eggs in one basket comes to mind – well, not so much “comes” to mind as leaps into mind yodelling wearing the stars and stripes.

  • at first i had never even heard of this guy.
    Then i was just indiffferent to him
    Then i was alittle annoyed at all his screaming and over acting
    Now i’m positive this guys an attention seeking idiot with millions of childish imature fans

  • I’m not going to pretend for a second that what pdp did, or regularly does, was acceptable, but DCMA is for legit copyright issues. On a wider scale, using DCMA to enact a takedown just because suddenly you don’t like what a youtuber does whilst playing/reviewing your game is lame, especially if prior to that you have been fine with their use of your IP in their videos. The Fair Use clause should strike this takedown out before it even kicks in. Unfortunately we all know that because the law places the cost of non-compliance on the hosting service, youtube will comply first and then consider the action later if at all.

    • The game and music is copyrighted… so the developer has the right.

      The content creator has the right to claim fair use… but given that Nintendo has set precedent for “Play by our rules or get struck down” its better not to challenge and work around what you can and cant play.

    • Fair Use is murky around Let’s Plays though. Any companies can argue that they are breaking fair use. Remember when Nintendo took down the people who posted a Let’s Play of a translated a Japan Exclusive game (Ace Attorney, I think)? That issue was 100% about content, Nintendo didn’t have a moral issue with the people uploading it. The same thing has happened with Let’s Plays of That Dragon Cancer, where the devs didn’t believe that the steamer was adding sufficient commentary to justify the video.

      Compare that to the whole Jim Sterling thing where Digital Homicide tried to take down a video where he was doing a mix of a first impression and a review video, offering analysis of the game. That take down was reversed because Jim Sterling was definitely adding sufficient commentary, it was just commentary that Digital Homicide disagreed with.

      The real question is, is what Pewdiepie bringing to the table in his videos enough to be classed as sufficient commentary? The very few videos I’ve seen of his is just showing him play the game with some reactions thrown in there, but I’m not a Pewdiepie fan, so I can’t judge on the full extent of his work. If the video in question doesn’t add a sufficient amount of commentary, then this is a legit copyright issue and the devs have every right to slam a DMCA on him.

      In the grand scheme, I think this could be a good warning for Let’s Players, start contributing more to your videos than talking out loud about what you’re just about to do, actually bring some sort of commentary or critique to your videos, because if the whole point of the video just to watch a person play a video game, then you will be at the devs mercy, and if they don’t want you associated with their game, they have the legal power to stop you, if they so choose.

      • Talking out loud and commenting on the game on a near-constant basis throughout the playthrough though ought to be enough to qualify under fair-use, as the youtuber is documenting their experience and themselves throughout the playthrough, rather than the actual game itself. having watched the video in question, I do feel that is the case. However, developers and publishers seem to be of the almost ubiquitous opinion that use of in-game footage throughout the video warrants a DMCA takedown in the event they decide they don’t like the author, which is clearly not the purpose that the DMCA was originally intended for, but rather as an anti-piracy measure.

        • The problem is, whether Let’s Plays are piracy is itself a grey issue, yesterday’s article states that the argument is that it’s fair use as long as the Youtuber is adding comment, criticism, or identifying some kind of news value.
          The Pewdiepie videos I’ve seen, the amount of input he’s put in hasn’t amounted much more that “oh, this is cool, I like this”, or “oh, wow, this is funny”. If Youtubers are going to release videos with that level of comment and also act in a way that stands in opposition to the devs beliefs, then of course devs will start looking into what legal rights they have to stop them.

        • Talking out loud and commenting on the game on a near-constant basis throughout the playthrough though ought to be enough to qualify under fair-use

          It isn’t, and it shouldn’t. Commentary over the top of media is a definite case of non-exempt behaviour. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 were limited to doing public domain films and had to buy the rights to everything else to legally do their commentary.

      • By this logic though all streamers are breaking fair use unless you’re non stop talking over the game. Where do we draw the line?

        • It’s less about quantity and more about quality. Fair use laws regarding this are still messy all over the place and honestly, will end up coming down to a case by case basis.

          I’d argue that if your intention of the video becomes anything more than “this is what happens when you play this game from start to finish”, then you’d be fine. That being said, last time I checked, I wasn’t a US judge that was assigned to this hypothetical case that would give a concrete decision on the legalities of Let’s Plays.

  • Ive been doing youtube for over 4 years, and this might be the final nail in the coffin. Ive gone from about $50 a month 4 years ago, to 30 cents. Youtube has recently changed the way it works in the last couple of weeks. More than half my videos (850) have been not suitible for most advertisers, from the recent changes. All because i like to play horror and fighting games. This doesnt massively effect me, as its a hobby i love doing, but i cant see this lasting much longer after this debacle. Sigh.

    • I’m sure you know already, but you can contest the ‘not suitable for all advertisers’ flag, which should restore your videos to full monetisation after review. From memory there’s a condition that the video has to receive 1000 views in a certain period to be considered, but if you’re getting less than that on your old videos there’s not much value in remonetising them anyway – just focus on the new ones that get flagged.

  • Why couldn’t he just drop a nice loud “fuck!” like the rest of us do.

    Show of hands if you’ve blurted out a racial slur while gaming before…

  • I think this YouTube user who used the N word while playing Battlefield should have his whole YouTube channel removed because we’re not going to tolerate the kind of behavior Pewdiepie I don’t think you should make I think you should have your whole YouTube channel deleted because I’m not going to subscribe to your channel if you keep using the N word again.

  • Saying one stupid word in the heat of a moment doesn’t make you a racist. No matter the history behind that word. Its ugly and inappropriate, but it doesn’t make him a racist. You could tell he regretted it straight away.

    Now lets all white knight against Pewdiepie and watch Jake Paul become the new face of youtube.

    • I would like to see the one punch perpetrators use that line.

      Yeah I killed him but it was in the heat of the moment and I’m sorry, so we’re cool?

      • Hello! Actually, no. Pewdiepie has gotten big through reacting to video games. The way you become big through this is by making those reactions as intense and extreme as possible. Pewdiepie does this by using his language and by reacting to weird and horrific games. The second something happens in a game his brain automatically jumps to the most extreme way of expressing emotion as possible. He has been doing this for so long he does not even think about it anymore. By the laws of desensitization, the brain must revert to worse language in order to have the same shock effect that has always made his videos entertaining. I agree with pewdiepie when he said in his last video that in this case he simply went to far and that he said something he should not have said.

        But no, this does not indicate he says the N word all the time. In fact, it means that he considers the word extremely offensive , due to it being the worst word he could think of in a moment’s notice. Offline I don’t think he would ever say that word. I think also that if this were not live, he would have had it edited out, because I think he genuinely does not want to offend people.

    • lol.

      Saying one word in the heat of the moment is exactly what makes you racist.

      If you are using ethnicity as an insult, you consider being that ethnicity as being inferior.

      That’s also called being racist.

    • When I play videogames, I am a constant stream of atrocious profanity that gains me looks from strangers and kin. Yet I have never used that word. Why? Is it because I’m constantly policing myself for it? No, it’s simply because that word doesn’t make part of my vocabulary, thus it does’t jump to mind even in the moments of most uncontrolled, murderous rage.

      Going by previous PDP debacles I am willing to entertain the idea that he’s not truly racist. However, he’s someone who–not understanding the gravity, the real life consequences of things like racism, fascism or antisemitism–is quick to make light or jostle around with terms and words to get a reaction from people, or just because he finds it funny in his bankrupt sense of humour. Whether he is racist/antisemitic/whatever or not is secondary, as the same result is that he propagates and normalises ideas and behaviours.

      • I think the look on his face says it all. When I was growing up, everyone called stuff gay. That’s changed, but it takes a lot of time to de-normalize behaviours and words. As long as the culprit understands its wrong and expresses regret I don’t think it makes them a bad person. Its a really poor mistake.

        As society progresses forward we need to accept that vocabulary behaviors take a lot of time to change. Demonizing people who really aren’t racist just creates more division. As long as they know they made a mistake there’s no need to pick them apart like vultures. There’s some really fucking ugly shit happening in this world that gets fuck all media attention compared to some youtuber accidently saying a racial slur.

        I don’t really see Pewdiepie as someone who thinks its okay to say the n word, or that he secretly thinks its just a silly word.

        There’s people who have experienced racism and lived under facist regimes that think this shit is silly. Because it is silly. Its not normalizing anything. Its a stupid mistake.

        You wanna see real normalisation of racism? Go to China, Israel, Japan or Russia. Even the biggest youtubers influence is dust compared to the way racism is actually normalised.

        • And I’m not saying it’s ok to use racial slurs in the heat of a moment, its ugly. Its just not worth the pathetic muck raking.

        • I don’t really see Pewdiepie as someone who thinks its okay to say the n word, or that he secretly thinks its just a silly word.

          Then why does it make part of his language? He either uses it genuinely as an insult to black people, or disingenuously as someone who believes himself funny and/or controversial or whatever. I hear your argument that previous normalised behaviour or words are hard to get rid of. However, that word is not one that just now became frowned upon: it was already that way before this guy was born. So if it was a term that he unfortunately acquired for one reason or the other, but as a genuine non-racist he’s trying to get rid off, you’d see a serious remorse and truly apologetic behaviour once the word got blurted out. All I see is someone who knows that “some people” are offended by that word, so ooops, but let’s carry on!

          Again, it doesn’t matter if he’s a racist or not. What matters is that his millions of impressionable teenage viewers saw his idol saying that freely. Thus, it is important too that they see some consequences following that. Sure, other countries have it worse. That doesn’t mean that we should stop combatting entrenched, normalised racism.

          • Yeah it was a bad word long ago, but it also started appearing in pop culture HEAPS throughout the 90s and 2000s which is when he was growing up. I grew up in the 2000s and I don’t think there’s a single day where I didn’t hear that word in a song, movie or tv show.

            I’m not saying it’s okay for someone who isnt black to say it in frustration, but black people say it in frustration. That’s where its heard the most. That’s where the influence to say it occurs. He knew he fucked up straight away, not excusing his behaviour but that’s not normalized racism, if you want to combat normalized racism go and brick George Christiansen’s house, take a shit on Pauline Hanson’s Commodore or just straight up shoot Peter Dutton in the head.

          • Again, I don’t know, and really, don’t care if he’s racist or has normalised racism or not. That’s not the issue. The issue is that his use of the word normalises it to his countless followers. If he really knew that he fucked up straight away, why didn’t he stop and firmly apologised about it? Why did it take two days of online backlash and the whole DMCA for him to make a video apologising?

            Also, why is the fact that there are more condemnable racists in the world a reason not to condemn the “smaller” cases? (quotes because I have the feeling that Christiansen’s or Hanson’s bases of rabid fans actually pale in comparison to PDP’s). Don’t you worry about me, I have enough condemnation in me to cover all racists, I’m not running low.

          • Does it normalize it to all let alone any of his countless followers if he clearly showed it was a fuck up straight away? I don’t think so. He used to say heaps worse shit all the time and now that he’s grown up, he makes one mistake and its enough for the white knights to ride in and attack.

            It’s not like he said it then ignored it straight away. I think some level of criticism is fair.

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