Skip to main content

YouTube backed itself into a corner with Logan Paul and PewDiePie

YouTube backed itself into a corner with Logan Paul and PewDiePie


Damned if they do, damned if they don’t

Share this story

YouTube surprised everyone last week by releasing Logan Paul’s premium movie, The Thinning: New World Order, a high-gloss YouTube Red film that had previously been put on indefinite hold after the star filmed a dead body in Japan. The release has been controversial because it not only seemed like YouTube was rewarding a problematic creator, but also that the company treats Logan Paul differently than other YouTubers.

Days after Logan Paul’s suicide forest controversy broke out, YouTube reprimanded the vlogger by slashing his advertising prospects on the platform, as well as indefinitely delaying the release of Thinning: New World Order. Since then, Paul has embarked on a redemption tour that more or less allowed him to continue business as usual on the video platform, and with YouTube’s latest decision, that redemption arc now seems institutionally endorsed.

Complicating all of this is that a year before these events, YouTube canned the release of Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg’s YouTube Red series, Scare PewDiePie, after the Swedish internet celebrity paid two men to hold a sign up that read “Death to All Jews.” While Kjellberg maintains that it was a “joke” without any “serious” intent, the stunt disgusted many on the internet. YouTube soon canceled the release of his show and took him off their premium advertising service in response.

On social media, many onlookers have compared the two incidents and pointed out the apparent inconsistency in how YouTube upholds its own rules. Why has Logan Paul been treated differently than Kjellberg?

Kjellberg himself tackled the subject over the weekend in an ongoing and partially satirical bit where he pretends to be a news reporter.

“Where is Scare PewDiePie season two?” Kjellberg asks. “Bring back Scare PewDiePie,” he demands. He points out that while YouTube seemed to take its time deciding on the fate of Paul’s show, it immediately canceled Kjellberg’s production after the news of his transgression broke out. Kjellberg also claims that YouTube has not reached out to him about the possibility of bringing the show back, despite it being apparently nearly finished.

“It’s kinda amazing how a billion-dollar company can be so inept at leadership,” Kjellberg says. “If you want to be taken seriously, you need to apply the same rules for everyone.”

Asked for comment, YouTube explained that it brought back Logan’s show to honor work that went into it. “The entire cast and crew worked extremely hard to complete this film last year,” a representative told The Verge. “In fairness to all of them and the fans who have been asking for the sequel, we decided to release The Thinning: New World Order.”

“If you want to be taken seriously, you need to apply the same rules for everyone.”

Back when Scare PewDiePie was canceled, Kjellberg said he was saddened by YouTube’s decision because it meant that the company was inadvertently punishing the entire crew on the production over the actions of a single person. In his latest video, Kjellberg reiterates that he would have been fine with being punished personally, without having it affect the lives of other people. For that reason, Kjellberg says, he’s actually happy that Paul’s show saw the light of day, but is upset that his project won’t have the same opportunity.

“Punish Logan for what he did, and punish me for my mistakes, but to punish everyone involved on this project? I mean, these parts are so massive, it just doesn’t make sense,” Kjellberg said.

Now, the company is in a bind no matter what it does. If it continues to refuse to release Scare PewDiePie, the YouTube community will be up in arms over the question of fairness. If it brings back Scare PewDiePie, at least some of the public will see it as the company wavering to pressure and inadvertently rewarding Kjellberg despite his mistakes. While other people helped make the show possible, Kjellberg is the main draw of Scare PewDiePie, and there’s no way around the fact that a Kjellberg show would glorify the YouTuber.

It’s hard to say exactly why YouTube treated the two stars differently. Was Kjellberg’s transgression viewed more harshly internally than Logan’s, or does this signify a shift in how these infractions are judged? Regardless, YouTube is widely viewed as unpredictable in how it doles out these decisions, and has been for some time. Fans complain that YouTube can’t seem to make up its mind about what kind of company it wants to be, a sentiment that is worsened by the perception that the Paul brothers are given preferential treatment by the platform.

In his video over the weekend, Kjellberg pointed out how these reactions were inevitable, given YouTube’s apparent inconsistency. “I don’t think they realized that if they did this to me, they’re gonna have to do it to everyone else,” he said.