Jasmin Martin discusses the issues arising amongst particular content creators for Lippy.
TW: sexual abuse, grooming, sexual harrassment, r***
For anyone who has been a long-time viewer of YouTube, you will be aware that the abuse of power by content creators is a major issue. The first time I remember this happening was in 2014, where many women took to Tumblr and YouTube to talk about their experiences with (over 40) male YouTubers who had sexually harassed, assaulted and in some cases r***** them. For the most part, these youtubers faded into obscurity. However, in the present day the abuse of power on YouTube has become a norm. There is a pattern of influencers doing something wrong, making an apology video (which often goes viral) and moving on like nothing has happened. In fact, SNL recently created a ‘Viral Apology’ sketch making fun of influencer apology videos. For the most part, careers remain intact and offenders are still able to create videos. It is almost as if any attention is positive attention. Since the beginning of 2021, three of the biggest influencers on the platform have been accused of abusing their power: David Dobrik, James Charles and Jake Paul.
David Dobrik has over 18 million subscribers with his videos reaching over 8 billion views. He became known for his funny, shocking, ‘celebrity-and-Tesla-filled’ vlogs. However, Dobrik was never really a big part of the vlogs. It was often his friends who took centre stage and involved themselves in ‘pranks’. In Dobrik’s vlogs, Seth Francious was tricked twice into kissing Jason Nash (a man in his late 40s). An episode of Dobrik and Nash’s podcast ‘Views’ showed the creators discussing (and laughing about) the racial motivation behind the ‘prank’. In fact, the fallout from Seth’s ‘prank’ videos resulted in Seth moving to a different state due to the abuse he was receiving in his hometown. Furthermore, Dobrik invited a group of underage girls to his house with the aim of getting the group to have sex with his friend, ‘Durtee Dom’. The Vlog Squad got the young girls black out drunk and ‘master manipulated’ two of them to have sex with Dom. Kat Tenbarge published an investigation into these allegations for Insider, which can be found here.
Furthermore, 21 year old influencer James Charles has received scrutiny following accusations of grooming. As of April 2021, more than 15 men and boys have accused Charles of making inappropriate sexual advances on social media. Charles admitted to using TikTok and Instagram as a ‘dating’ site due to him being ‘desperate’ for a boyfriend, and encouraged minors to send him nude photographs on Snapchat.
Most recently, Jake Paul who holds over 20 million subscribers has been investigated by the New York Times after TikToker Justine Paradise accused Paul of sexual assault. Moreover, actress and model Railey Lollie discussed how Paul allegedly groped her and referred to her as ‘jailbait’ when she was 17. Paradise and Lollie were both guests at the Team 10 house (one of the first ‘creator collaboration’ houses) and many who lived there have come forward with allegations of exploitation, harassment and bullying. Musician AJ Mitchell moved into the Team 10 house at age 14, and discussed the parties at the house where alcohol and drugs were readily available to minors. The parties hosted by Paul had a mix of guests who were minors as well as those in their 30s. Mitchell said how these parties led to him having a sexual relationship with a woman almost a decade older whilst he was a teenager.
The abuse of power is nothing new. However, it is an increasingly common and a dangerous occurrence on YouTube. What are the consequences? YouTube announced that Charles' channel has been temporarily demonetized following his actions. Also, Dobrik’s account was demonetized for a month following the accusations around his friend Dom. Nevertheless, all three influencers still hold millions of subscribers and have a strong young fanbase. The infamous James Charles eyeshadow palette is still being sold on Morphe and Jake Paul is making millions from his new boxing career. Unfortunately, the abuse of power on the platform seems to be making little impact to these influencers as they are still millionaires. This leads to the question, does ‘cancelling’ influencers really work? In my opinion, de-platforming should be a consequence for YouTubers who have committed crimes and continually harm their audience.
Words by Jasmin Martin