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More than 60,000 people have signed a petition to dethrone the king of YouTube.
PewDiePie, 29, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, was the most subscribed to channel on YouTube for more than five years before being recently unseated by T-Series. But now a Change.org petition aims to permanently remove the Swede from the platform, along with other “white supremacist content.”
Maria Ruiz started the petition three weeks ago. She cites the Christchurch, New Zealand, terror attacks on two mosques in mid-March as her primary motivation. “In the wake of the most recent mosque shooting I believe it is time to take action as a community and remove white supremacist content from our platforms,” she wrote. Ruiz notes that the shooter in New Zealand “mentioned PewDiePie by name and asked people to subscribe.”
Kjellberg condemned the attacks in New Zealand immediately after the news broke.
Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch.— ƿ૯ωძɿ૯ƿɿ૯ (@pewdiepie) March 15, 2019
I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person.
My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.
The tragedy in Christchurch is far from the first time PewDiePie has been tied to white supremacy, according to the petition. Ruiz added a list of reasons she believes Kjellberg’s channel should be removed. Included on the list are the two times he “used the N slur,” the use of a clip of “a man dressed as Jesus holding a sign stating ‘Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong,'” face-swapping videos in which Ruiz says Kjellberg “repeatedly uses an image of actress Leslie Jones to represent Harambe,” as well as his use of “rape jokes.”
Ruiz also noted that game developer Sean Vanman filed DMCA reports to remove streams of his game on PewDiePie’s channel. “Even though PewDiePie’s streams have brought his company over 5.7 million views, Mr. Vanman saw the dangers,” Ruiz wrote.
She also says that even if PewDiePie were to improve, it wouldn’t be enough. “Even if PewDiePie cleaned up his act his comment sections are still a cesspool of white supremacist activities and commentaries,” she wrote. Ruiz’s motivation for creating the petition in the first place is her suspicion that PewDiePie’s actions “constitute a clear and present danger to society.”
“It’s Time to remove PewDiePie from YouTube permanently and develop AI to find and remove extremist material instead of having the SPLC do their work for them,” the petition concludes. 62,000 people have signed as of this article’s writing—though that number is boosted by people trolling it.
Some of the signatures came from PewDiePie supporters—who had to sign in order to comment. “I just signed to tell you that you’re going to have something productive to do with your life instead of creating petitions against youtubers,” one commenter wrote. Most were not so polite. “Shut the fuck up… LIBERAL,” another added. “I only signed to say that you’re a fucking idiot and that you should die.”
Other people were much more supportive of the petition and took the time to let Ruiz know in the comments. “Felix constantly brings racially insensitive and inciting material to his channel,” Syed Akhtar wrote. “His very recent videos exhibit racism in guise of humor.”
Other commenters agreed. “It’s up to us to teach the next generation tolerance, kindness, and that hate won’t be tolerated,” Jessica Salmonson wrote. “If we as a people won’t stand up for those being discriminated against then who will? Good people we must fight, and this is a good start.”
Considering PewDiePie’s monumental popularity, it seems highly unlikely a petition will be enough to get him removed from YouTube—he boasts more than 92 million subscribers, after all. Still, Ruiz and supporters of her cause feel strongly that PewDiePie no longer belongs on the platform, and they are raising awareness that his history of irresponsible trolling with his giant platform isn’t going unnoticed.
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Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.