YouTuber PewDiePie Has Been Dropped By Disney After Being Accused of Anti-Semitism
PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg, has reportedly been dropped by the agency that helped him make millions through advertising deals.
One of the world's most popular and successful YouTube stars has been dropped from the Disney-owned studio that brokered millions of dollars' worth of deals for him and from a forthcoming YouTube series, because of a string of videos containing anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi references, it has been reported.
According to the Wall Street Journal, internet personality PewDiePie, also known as Swedish 27-year-old Felix Kjellberg, was dropped by Maker Studios after the newspaper asked it to comment on nine of his videos posted since August that contained offensive material.
Maker said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal: "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."
YouTube, which is owned by Google, confirmed on Tuesday that it had cancelled a forthcoming web series, Scare PewDiePie 2, that would have been available through the paid-for YouTube Red subscription service. Episodes from the first series, Scare PewDiePie, are available to view for $1.89 each.
The PewDiePie channel has also been removed from Google Preferred, its list of premium content creators thought to be among the most brand-safe for advertisers.
YouTube said in a statement: "We’ve decided to cancel the release of Scare PewDiePie Season 2 and we’re removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred."
The company pointed out that all YouTubers must comply with its community guidelines, which allow offensive posts that are intended to be humorous or satirical except where the intent is to incite violence or hatred.
Kjellberg, who is thought to have the most-followed account on YouTube, with 53 million subscribers, shot to online fame through his irreverent games videos, which have since expanded into comedy and exploring various elements of his sometimes combative personality.
Three videos from January, which were viewed 23 million times, were taken down by the PewDiePie account. One, from 11 January, showed two men holding up a sign that read "Death to all Jews". Kjellberg had apparently hired them from a freelancing website and said: "I paid for this?"
He later added: "I'm sorry, I didn't think they would actually do it, I feel partially responsible."
In a video on 17 January, Kjellberg responded to criticism of the previous video and said that it was intended as a joke: "It might just be my crude sense of humour but I think there's something funny about that – I don't think there's any actual anti-Semitic thing about it."
In another on 22 January, Kjellberg included a short excerpt of a man dressed as Jesus saying: "Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong." The speaker offered a paid-for service where he would say what customers requested while dressed as Jesus.
In a blog post on Saturday, Kjellberg wrote: "I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.
"I make videos for my audience. 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. Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.
"As laughable as it is to believe that I might actually endorse these people, to anyone unsure on my standpoint regarding hate-based groups: No, I don’t support these people in any way."
The US-based neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer recently changed its strapline to "the world's #1 PewDiePie fansite" in response to the controversy over the videos.
According to Forbes, Kjellberg made $12 million from advertising in 2015, when he was aged just 25.
Part of his deal with Maker gave him co-ownership of a Revelmode, which makes videos and apps and sells merchandise.
BuzzFeed News has contacted Maker and PewDiePie's management.