PewDiePie Has Become YouTube’s Voice of Reason
Yes, PewDiePie plans on taking a break in 2020. But that’s not the important stuff he said in his latest video
Read any number of news outlets today and you’ll learn some shocking, breaking news. PewDiePie is stepping back from YouTube. “I’m taking a break from YouTube in 2020,” said PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg. “I’m feeling very tired.”
Of course, it’s something YouTube’s largest individual creator has done multiple times in the past, but the media have fixated on the notion that this is new.
Kjellberg has previously stepped away from YouTube at times when he feels that the platform is making changes in a way that harm its long-term viability, and when the need to try and get his head around changes to the platform are an added stress to the simple churn of uploading videos regularly. This 2016 video outlined some of his previous thinking:
Months later, as he closed in on 50 million subscribers — half the number he has today — he also threatened to leave the platform because he believed the site was deprioritizing his videos. “This is all a conspiracy,” he said at the time. “YouTube wants to kill my channel. It’s because I’m always complaining to them. I don’t have family- friendly content. I click-bait too much, huh? Is that it? It all makes sense…”
Kjellberg tends to use the breaks both as a way to try and recalibrate his enjoyment of the platform, which can be difficult given the punishing upload schedule creators often feel, and as a way of letting the dust settle on major policy changes. It’s one way of counteracting the idea that YouTube trends analyst Matt Gielen has previously told me creators struggle with: building their business on quicksand, and the foibles of a platform that constantly changes its platforms on a whim. The same concerns were raised by big YouTuber Adam Saleh in an interview with FFWD last week.
The comments were made in a 12-minute video Kjellberg uploaded to his channel over the weekend.While most people who don’t follow YouTube regularly believe that PewDiePie’s announcement that he’ll be stepping away from the site is the major news line from the video, what’s more important is the previous 95% of the video, where Kjellberg hints at at least part of the reason he’s going to step back some time in early 2020.
PewDiePie is the biggest voice on the platform, and in his latest video he comes out strongly against YouTube’s newly-announced harassment policies, saying they’re detrimental to the future of the site.
In part, his frustration is born out of the notion that there’ll likely be a gap between what YouTube says its policies are, and how they will actually levy those rules on creators.
“It doesn’t matter what they say. It’s how they enforce it,” says Kjellberg in his latest video. He also raised concerns that we’ve previously reported on about the way in which new policies are being retroactively imposed on pre-existing videos.
“Why retroactively take down videos?” he asked. “If you’re going to make a new policy change, then go from there. Don’t go back and hit old videos.”
Kjellberg also pointed out some serious concerns in the new harrassment policy that YouTube introduced, which will impose a straitjacket on creators who fear their missteps will be punished by censure from the site, rather than the previous self-policing model that has existed for nearly 15 years.
“It seems the same case for a lot of YouTube stuff where the intention is good,” admits Kjellberg, who recognizes that the policy change has its heart in the right place — but will have unintended consequences. YouTube has long struggled with inappropriate content, and the added pressures of creators able to pile on to someone ostrasized from the community by setting their followers on an individual. But by and large, when someone has behaved inappropriately, an unofficial police force within the community has brought people back into line.
It has happened with wayward parents who exploit their children and have been castigated by the platform’s creators; it has happened with sex pests such as Sam Pepper, who uploaded videos of himself groping women and was chastened by an open letter signed by the site’s biggest names and banned from its main offline meeting, VidCon.
Yet YouTube is no longer that platform. Chastened by nearly three years of negative headlines, and increasingly intense scrutiny from politicians who want the platform to take a stance, YouTube the company is starting to think more corporately. The result, fears Kjellberg, is a censured, neutered platform. “What we have here is stale content. It’s so boring, but it’s so media-friendly,” he points out.