TikTok users have been dueting with an apology video from one of the platform’s biggest creators in response to allegations of sexually inappropriate interactions with underage fans.
Sebastian Kretzmann, a member of the popular creator collective Strawberry Milk Gang who’s known by fans as “RadicalSeb,” was accused last week of sending graphic sexual messages to underage fans, including suggesting sexually explicit acts they wanted to perform. In response, fans have used TikTok as a way to voice their concern over the situation, many of whom are doing so with the platform’s duets feature, which lets them appear in split screen beside another person’s video to react, respond, or remix it.
Kretzmann is one of the most prolific creators on TikTok. Best known for their comedic sketches, queer-focused content, and eKid persona, Kretzmann built up an impressive following of more than 330,000 followers and 16.1 million likes since joining the app. Their TikTok popularity has led to a line of merchandise available for fans to purchase and even rumors of a possible tour with other members of Strawberry Milk Gang. They may not be the most popular creator, but their fanbase is pretty big and dedicated.
TikTok has more than 500 million global users, and that makes moderation — especially for communications that happened off-platform — a challenging task. That’s why other massive communities, like fans and creators on YouTube, have learned to self-police within their own circles, using tools on and off their platforms to highlight troublesome behavior so that fans know to steer clear. Unlike Tumblr and YouTube, which have been around for more than a decade, TikTok communities haven’t had to deal with this before, and the actions around Kretzmann seem to be the first time we’ve seen self-policing play out on TikTok on a large scale.
The duets have played alongside an apology video Kretzmann posted, addressing several of the accusations in depth. Kretzmann was hanging out with friends in a group chat and on a video call when they made sexually explicit comments to an underage boy, according to Kretzmann’s video. Kretzmann acknowledged that one of the video chat participants was underage (referring to one boy as 15), but they continued to make lewd comments. Still, Kretzmann argued that they never asked for anyone in the group — underage or otherwise — to send sexually explicit photos.
“I didn’t think that was going to make this person feel uncomfortable because I’m friends with them and I’m just being myself in the friend group,” Kretzmann said. “I feel completely disgusted and feel bad. I made people feel uncomfortable. What I said was wrong. And I feel bad about it. I am sorry.” We’ve reached out to Kretzmann for comment.
Everything that has been alleged against Kretzmann occurred through apps other than TikTok, but Kretzmann’s status on TikTok meant the accusations traveled through the platform. To people inside of TikTok, the controversy dominated conversation — the story overtook the app, as users’ entire “For You” homepage recommendations became dominated by memes and responses to the situation. Response videos have garnered more than 435,000 views so far, made up of duets, memes, and straight-forward opinions, under the “#radicalseb” hashtag. There are several other hashtags, too.
Creator “drama” has become an industry unto itself on YouTube. There are entire channels with hundreds of thousands of subscribers dedicated to examining the most recent developments in the community. On YouTube, it started as a way of providing information to confused viewers, but it also became a form of self-policing. If people weren’t paying attention to the stars of their own community, YouTube commentators and drama channels would.
Now, TikTok is doing the same thing. Popular TikTok user and former Vine star, HawkHatesYou, used her platform on TikTok to accuse Kretzmann of additional lewd behavior with underage teenagers. In a follow-up, HawkHatesYou said she decided to comment on it as a way to protect children.
“What about pressuring my friends to send dick pics,” HawkHatesYou said. “What about being on FaceTime with a 17-year-old and showing your balls? What about the 17-year-old boy you made explicit comments to in there? What about all of the other people that you hurt?”
Kretzmann has made their TikTok account private and no longer allows comments on their Instagram posts. Other members of the Strawberry Milk Gang have disavowed Kretzmann’s actions and haven’t collaborated with them since. As TikTok continues to grow, creator controversies will happen more often — and TikTok users will continue to learn how to deal with controversies just as users on other major user-generated content platforms already have.