YouTube star PewDiePie in hot water over use of racial slur

Why it matters to you

Other developers who don’t want their brands tarnished by association with noxious statements made by YouTube personalities will be watching this situation closely.

Over the weekend, YouTube personality PewDiePie — known for his high-energy gaming videos — found himself in hot water after calling another player a racial slur during a match of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

During the video, PewDiePie can be heard using the “n-word” before briefly apologizing and then directing a separate non-racist insult toward the player instead.

This isn’t the first time PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, has made racially insulting comments in his videos, and game developers have taken notice.

Writing on Twitter, Firewatch co-director Sean Vanaman said that his company, Campo Santo, would be filing a “DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] takedown” on Kjellberg’s Firewatchvideos, as well as any future games the developer makes.

Vanaman went on in the Twitter thread to call Kjellberg a “propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry,” and he urged other developers to follow his example.

While some have questioned whether Campo Santo can use the DMCA system to remove Kjellberg’s videos (the system is used for copyright infringement), Vanaman said that he does not believe Kjellberg’s videos are a commentary on his game, and thus would not fall under the vague “Fair Use” umbrella.

Rest assured, this will be getting debated online by people who have not studied copyright law for weeks to come.

On Tuesday, September 12, Kjellberg uploaded an apology video, stressing that there was no excuse for him to say a racial slur during his gaming stream, saying he hates hearing that language from other players.

“I’m disappointed in myself, because it seems like I’ve learned nothing from all these past controversies,” he said in the video. “And it’s not that I think I can say or do whatever I want and get away with it — that’s not it at all. I’m just an idiot, but that doesn’t make what I said or how I said it OK. It was not OK.”

Earlier this year, Kjellberg was the subject of controversy after uploading a video which featured people he paid holding a sign in public that read, “Death to all Jews.”

He later claimed that the video was being made to show how someone could find a volunteer online willing to do anything for money, but this didn’t address that fact that many of his 57 million subscribers are children who could take this anti-Semitism at face value.

It’s unclear just how severe the backlash will be for Kjellberg and his channel this time. His previous controversy caused YouTube Red to part ways with him over his Scare PewDiePie show and he was also cut from the Maker Studios network.

Update: Added Felix Kjellberg’s apology video.

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