How have brands responded?
Unsurprisingly, brands have pulled away from Dobrik and attempted to distance themselves from his content, even his most longstanding company partnerships such as EA Sports and DoorDash.
YouTube has also temporarily demonetized his main channel of over 19 million subscribers as well as his two smaller ones called David Dobrik Too and Views.
Dobrik has announced he will be stepping down from his role at Dispo, a vintage photo app that he helped found last year, and will be taking an indefinite break from social media. Dispo lost two key investors over the last week, Spark Capital and Lime CEO Wayne Ting, and its future is a little uncertain as a result.
In a statement, YouTube said it ‘takes allegations of sexual assault very seriously’ and was quick to reiterate that it has strict policies that prohibit sexual harassment on any level. Durte Dome – the man accused of rape – has had his channel demonetized, though it remains live and his ‘apology’ video can still be watched.
Is this a wider cultural issue with YouTube?
David and the Vlog Squad are not the first to face controversy for sexual misconduct on YouTube.
Other big names, such as Shane Dawson, Sam Pepper, and most recently Carson King, have all faced accusations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour with fans. It is a consistent problem with the platform that seems to come in routine waves as the years go on.
That’s not to mention other recent scandals either, such as Logan Paul’s offensive and now infamous suicide video, PewDiePie’s racial outburst, or the public back-and-forth between James Charles and Tati Westbrook a year ago.
YouTube’s algorithm promotes drama-centric content, so much so that it becomes profitable to create entire channels focused on spats and scandal. Many creators that produce chaotic, larger-than-life content are often rewarded by YouTube’s metrics, encouraging a system in which the standards of acceptability are pushed to their absolute limits.
You only need to look at Logan and Jake Paul’s meteoric rise for proof of this. Both creators made their names on the platform through ludicrously over-the-top vlogs full of ‘pranks’, vandalism, and antisocial behaviour. These types of channels are typically male centric and promote unhealthy power dynamics between groups of creators.
Dobrik even acknowledged this himself in his apology video. I’m not saying that YouTube itself is directly responsible for what has happened, but it certainly rewards creators that take ideas to extremes with little thought for the mental or physical abuse that can harbour in these conditions.
It’s also telling that sponsors typically do not drop a creator until sexual misconduct becomes public. Dobrik only lost advertisements after the world caught on to the stories of victims coming forward. This only became a serious issue once it was the focus of widespread, mainstream media attention.
More needs to be done by brands, YouTube, and creators themselves before it gets to this level. We need more rigorous policies and standards to prevent these unhealthy dynamics from thriving.
Time will tell if any serious online reform comes, though the cynic in me isn’t holding its breath.