With Racial Slur, PewDiePie Sparks Renewed Fears About Creators on YouTube

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Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie, made a video called 'Stream Fails.' No relation to his own, though.
Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie, made a video called 'Stream Fails.' No relation to his own, though. Credit: PewDiePie via YouTube

The grand-daddy of YouTube video creators, PewDiePie, will have a tough time shaking his racist grandpa image after letting a racial slur fly on a live stream this weekend.

The fallen YouTuber known as PewDiePie, Felix Kjellberg, with nearly 60 million subscribers, used the "N-word" when his gameplay went poorly during the live stream. The slur was just the latest offensive outburst by Swedish-born Kjellberg, who lost a deal with Disney's Maker earlier this year for making anti-Semitic jokes.

On Monday, a number of YouTube personalities were afraid that Kjellberg's latest incident would make it more difficult for the rest of their community.

Kjellberg had brushed aside prior incidents of cultural insensitivity by claiming he was joking or being taken out of context. At that time, Kjellberg had called out The Wall Street Journal for reporting on his videos, claiming it was dishonestly stoking animosity between YouTubers and marketers that advertise on the platform. The Journal's reporting, which found PewDiePie videos that seemed to encourage anti-Semetic messages, helped prompt brands to review where their ads ran on YouTube.

"I would like to see you get out of this one ‪@pewdiepie," tweeted K.S.I., a popular black YouTuber on Monday.

Philip DeFranco, a onetime defender of PewDiePie, said on his channel: "Today's story is different. It does not appear that there is any context defense."

Campo Santo, the developer of Firewatch, the game PewDiePie played while using the slur, promised to file copyright claims to prevent him from live streaming its games.

Kjellberg did not return a request for comment.

He did appear to understand the gravity of his words during the live stream, offering a quick "sorry" after the slur slipped from his mouth. Still, he didn't project a too apologetic pose, seeming to laugh off the whole incident by posting another video on Monday called "Stream Fails," but but not mentioning his own stream fail.

On Monday, ads for Tom Cruise's movie, "American Made," from Universal Pictures appeared on at least one PewDiePie video. Ads can still appear on his channel unless an advertiser expressly blacklists him.

The studio declined a request for comment.

PewDiePie had already been removed from Google Preferred, a select ad network for brands to appear only in the most desirable positions. YouTube also ended production of a show it once had high hopes for with PewDiePie.

To appease brands, YouTube began cracking down on channels that promoted offensive content, "demonetizing" the creators by refusing to serve ads there.

YouTubers reported revenue was falling to $3 for every thousand views from $25, according to Chris Pavlovski, CEO of Rumble, a platform that tries to help creators make money from their videos.

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