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PewDiePie pledges $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, spurring bizarre conspiracy theories

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‘I think it’s important, this just isn’t my fight anymore’

Pewdiepie, YouTube

Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg announced in a video on Tuesday that he would be donating $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League in an attempt to make amends and “move on” after a shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, said “Subscribe to PewDiePie” before carrying out his attack last spring.

“Making a donation to the ADL doesn’t make sense to everyone, especially since they’ve outright spoken against me,” Kjellberg said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I think it’s important, this just isn’t my fight anymore.”

Kjellberg’s decision to donate the money became a conspiracy among some commenters after his announcement on Tuesday. Anti-Semitic comments suggested that he was blackmailed by the ADL — a Jewish anti-hate group — in order to be in good standing again on YouTube and in the media. On Wednesday, Kjellberg posted a statement on Twitter in light of the conspiracies, saying he’s making the donation to “move past” his controversies.

Kjellberg has oftentimes been steeped in controversy for using racist language or anti-Semitic imagery in his videos. After paying two men on Fiverr to hold up a sign that said “death to all Jews” in 2017, Disney severed ties with him. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt congratulated Disney for its move soon after the decision was made.

“ADL commends Disney’s decision to sever ties with PewDiePie following his posting of videos on YouTube containing swastikas and other anti-Semitic content,” Greenblatt said in a statement at the time. “This clearly crosses a line, but is becoming all-too commonplace on social media.”

An ADL spokesperson told The Verge that they learned about the “potential donation when everyone else did: when he made the announcement on his channel yesterday.” There hasn’t been any further communication between the two.

Earlier this year, Kjellberg and his followers, in an effort to keep his channel the most-subscribed one on YouTube, created the “Subscribe to Pewdiepie” meme. For weeks, the phrase was plastered across social media, and although it started out harmless, it quickly picked up a lot of negative attention from racist trolls on the internet. At the height of the meme, a shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand said the phrase before murdering 51 people in mosques. It was shortly after that event that Kjellberg asked his subscribers to end the meme.

Kjellberg’s decision to support the ADL with this donation marks one of his first public moves take responsibility as a hugely popular and influential creator. For years, Kjellberg and YouTube’s relationship has been rocky. But soon after he became the first independent creator to reach 100 million subscribers on the platform, the two became more amicable, with YouTube sending him a new Play Button trophy and congratulating him for his success on Twitter.

In Tuesday’s video in which Kjellberg first announces his donation, he does not address any controversies specifically, but says, “I made a lot of mistakes on the way, but I’ve grown.” He continued, “I feel like I have at least. I feel like I’ve finally come to terms with the responsibility I have as a creator — about 100 million subs too late, but you know.”

Updated 9/11/19 at 4:06 p.m.: Updated to include a statement from the ADL.