YouTube is home to 1 billion users every month, which accounts for roughly a third of all people on the internet. Even YouTube mobile users alone reach more people ages 18-49 than any other cable network in the United States.
The problem is that working parents hardly have the time to vet every YouTube video their child wants to watch. No wonder some parents look to well-known and trusted companies like Disney to see what YouTube channels it not only vets but also backs.
For instance, the leading YouTube channel to date, with over 53 million subscribers, is PewDiePie.
PewDiePie, a 27-year-old Swede, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, has been under contract with Maker Studios (owned by Disney) since his rise to internet success.
His channel's astounding numbers, which are almost double the next leading YouTube channel, have landed Kjellberg interviews with Kathie Lee and Hoda, Katie Couric, and Stephen Colbert.
Some may wonder what makes his channel more popular than Adele's, Beyonce's and Taylor Swift's combined.
Kjellberg records himself playing video games...
The trend, known as the “Let's Play” phenomenon, is booming in popularity because it's as entertaining to users as if they were playing a video games themselves. And with the appeal of both video games and outlandish humor, most of Kjellberg's following is comprised of young gamers.
In fact, 78 percent of his viewers are younger than 20 years old, according to the Wall Street Journal.
So, when the WSJ began reviewing the channel, which earned multimillion dollar deals with both Disney and YouTube, WSJ was quick to report the shocking content it discovered.
WSJ reported that since August 2016, Kjellberg has uploaded nine videos that contain Nazi imagery as well as anti–Semitic messages.
Specifically, a now-deleted video from January 11 featured two men laughing while holding up a banner that read “Death to all Jews.”
WSJ also reported a video from January 22, that has been deleted, displayed a man dressed as Jesus Christ saying:
“Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.”
When the WSJ contacted Disney with its findings, a spokeswoman for Maker Studios said it was already in the process of cutting ties with Kjellberg:
"Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate.
Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward."
In addition, the WSJ was informed that under Kjellberg's contract with Maker Studios, he created and posted his own content without any approval needed from Maker Studios.
Basically, the company let him do whatever he wanted even though Disney's name was tied to him.
Although Kjellberg didn't comment on the news, he did leave a message for his fans on his Tumblr:
The statement reads, in part:
“I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online. I picked something that seemed absurd to me—That people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars.”
The YouTuber apologized, understanding that the anti–Semitic nature was offensive to some:
I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.
I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.
As laughable as it is to believe that I might actually endorse these people, to anyone unsure on my standpoint regarding hate-based groups: No, I don’t support these people in any way."
Kjellberg followed up with this video response:
It's clear that most of his fans, and other YouTube stars, are taking his side, claiming that the Wall Street Journal misrepresented him:
Regardless of intent, it seems that Disney never had any control of the videos' contents in the first place but rather only invested in Kjellberg's lucrative channel.
Editor's note: this post was updated after publication to include Kjellberg's new video response and fan comments.