Swedish YouTuber, comedian, and gamer–commentator Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, known online as PewDiePie on September 13 withdrew a donation of $50,000 to an anti-hate group called Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which he earlier pledged as a means of atoning for past accusations of racism and antisemitism, after backlash from his fans. The vlogger embraced by far-right apologized for planned donation to Anti-Defamation League after fans claimed conspiracy. in a video uploaded on Thursday, he apologized to fans, who had been developing conspiracy theories that he had been pressured to make the donation.
“I made the mistake of picking a charity that I was advised to instead of picking a charity that I’m personally passionate about, which is 100% my fault,” Kjellberg said.
PewDiePie got into a controversy in the past for posting antisemitic jokes and videos on his YouTube channel. He has been reported of portraying Nazi imagery in his videos and in one of them he paid two men to hold up a sign that read “Death to all Jews”. Just after that, Disney decided to drop him after a report found he had posted nine videos involving offensive rhetoric. Far-right extremists, including the Christchurch shooter, who killed 51 people in a mosque in New Zealand called viewers to subscribe to Pewdiepie while live-streaming his massacre. Later, PewDiePie removed some of his videos following the Christchurch shooting, saying in a statement he recognized some of his jokes were “ultimately offensive” and he felt “absolutely sickened” that the alleged gunman had mentioned him. This donation to Anti-Defamation League was Pewdiepie's recent effort to distance himself from far-right hate speech.
Matt Rivitz from the social media activism organization Sleeping Giants said that many of Pewdiepie's followers were more or less antisemitic and were quite out and loud about it. He added that the YouTuber used the opportunity and thought of donations as a PR strategy to smooth over the incidents from the past. Ritviz adds that YouTube has very little of a filter and has been used as a platform to reach a lot of dubious issues like that of antisemitism. The Video Giant recently vlogger Steven Crowder for anti-gay abuse. Similarly, a group of LGBTQ YouTubers is suing YouTube’s parent company for allegedly censoring their content. YouTube has not responded yet on the issue. ADL said that they had not heard directly about the donation but only learned about it from Pewdiepie's video announcement.