A Swedish YouTuber with 100 million subscribers has withdrawn a promised donation to an antisemitism charity amid a whirlwind on online conspiracy theories.
Felix Kjellberg, who posts video blogs under the name ‘PewDiePie,’ had said he would give $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), but this week backtracked after fans hit out against his decision.
In 2017, ADL cheered Disney’s decision to cut commercial ties with PewDiePie after he paid Indians to hold up banners reading ‘Death to Jews’.
He said the stunt was to “show how crazy the modern world is,” and how people “would say anything for five dollars,” but another video, posted 11 days later, showed a man dressed as Jesus saying: “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.”
In 2018, the ADL again took aim at the influencer, mentioning him in its run-down of the year’s “top 11 moments of hate”.
Earlier this year, the star was referenced by the man accused of committing the Christchurch mass shootings. Kjellberg said he was “absolutely sickened” by that and was concerned that he was being linked to the alt-right and far-right movements.
He sought to distance himself from it last week by promising to donate funds received from a sponsorship deal to the ADL, which he described as an organisation that “fights bigotry and prejudice in all its forms”.
However, this sparked frenzied online rumours that he was being blackmailed by the ADL, and in his most recent video, he retracted the promised donation while acknowledging that fans had gone into “full conspiracy mode”.
He said he had “made the mistake of picking a charity that I was advised to instead of picking a charity that I’m personally passionate about,” adding that he would still be giving the money to an anti-hate charity.
The ADL said it had not been in contact with Kjellberg, adding that it “learned about the potential donation when everyone else did, when he made the announcement on his channel”.
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