- A YouTube channel called Coffee Break released a video accusing prominent science channel Kurzgesagt of being untrustworthy and released one-sided emails of his conversations with its founder, Philipp Dettmer.
- Coffee Break says Dettmer deleted videos off the Kurzgesagt channel that had misinformation in them, but only after he knew Coffee break was working on a project that would criticize one video.
- Dettmer responded to questions in an AMA on Reddit explaining his side of the story and allowed for the full emails to be released.
Popular YouTube channel Kurzgesagt has been accused of being untrustworthy by smaller YouTuber who was preparing to release a video critical of Kurzgesagts “Addiction” video.
Kurzgesagt is a well-known science channel with over 8 million subscribers. The channel is most known for its“In a Nutshell” videos, which take complex topics and break them down into more digestible pieces.
On Tuesday, a YouTuber named Stephen, from the channel Coffee Break, posted a video where he breaks down an experience he had communicating with Philipp Dettmer, Kurzgesagt’s founder.
Stephen starts his video with the question, “Can you trust Kurzgesagt videos?” to which he responded, “No. And, ironically, the reason you can’t trust them is that this video exists at all.”
He goes on to say he is working on a series about the “pop-science” genre, and how the simplification of complicated topics can lead to misinformation.
He specifically sites a TED Talk by Johann Hari called “Everything you know about addiction is wrong,” and Kurzgesagt’s 2015 adaptation of the TED Talk called “Addiction.”
Stephen said he reached out to both Hari and Dettmer to talk about the video and ask questions about possible errors in it. He said Dettmer responded almost immediately and requested to not be quoted. As a result, Stephen only shares his half of the emails in his video and gives paraphrased versions of Dettmer’s emails.
After the Coffee Break video was uploaded, Dettmer posted an “Ask Me Anything” post on Kurzgesagt’s subreddit, so people could ask him questions regarding the video.
In the thread, Dettmer authorized the release of his half of the emails, which were uploaded into an imgur file almost immediately by Stephen.
Stephen shows his first email to Dettmer, saying that he emailed him on Feb. 2 with “some tough questions about the video on Addiction that Kurzgesagt did.”
He continued that because the video was one of Kurzgesagt’s most popular, he was “worried that some of the major claims in that video are vastly simplified, if not outright incorrect.”
Stephen also asked: “Did Kurzgesagt conduct an independent fact-checking of Johann Hari’s book before agreeing to this?”
Stephen then paraphrases Dettmer’s first email in response: “Essentially he’s not thrilled about the interview or video idea, he was worried that the video might be a call out. He basically says ‘hey the addiction video wasn’t perfect, but I feel it was good enough.'”
However, in the actual email, Dettmer directly says he would “not make a video like that today for obvious reasons.” He acknowledged that “it’s not difficult to find criqitue of Hari’s work nowadays,” but said it was not common when the video was made.
Dettmer then says that he has received “countless messages” from people who told him the video helped them, and so he could not bring himself to take it down. He concludes his email by saying while addiction is a complicated topic, he believes the video can exist as a helpful opinion.
It’s also important to note the criticisms of Hari. Hari’s argument is that addiction is largely psychological, and not chemical, a theory that has received pushed back from many experts.
The main thing to note here is a question posed by Stephen in his original email, where he askes if Dettmer was aware of a public scandal Hari had that “threw his credibility in question.”
The scandal Dettmer is referring to was from back in 2011, when Hari was accused of plagiarizing other journalists work, and then anonymously editing Wikipedia pages to discredit people who criticized him.
Stephen then describes the next two email interactions with Dettmer, saying he shared his idea and some criticism. He said that Dettmer responded by saying he was busy traveling, and told him to wait until early March for an interview.
However, there are important parts of these emails that Stephen does not talk about in the video.
In Stephen’s email, he does explain his project, but he also challenges Dettmer’s claim that criticisms of Hari’s work were not available at the time, writing: “There are problems with Hari’s work, not just looking back from 2015, but holes in his research that were easily available at the time.”
Dettmer responded in his email that he did confront Hari about the critique, but that he was not comfortable discussing it with Stephen, because he felt Stephen’s project was a gotcha video.
After showing the emails, Stephen launches into the main accusations he’s making:
“And March 3 was the day I found what Philipp had been really busy doing, too busy to answer my questions. He had been busy making my video, for me, for his channel. He even did me the favor and interviewed himself by answering all my questions.”
Stephen goes on to show clips from the video and how they correspond with the questions in his emails. He then goes on to show clips from the video where it talks about how oversimplification can be distorting and provides a brief clip where Kurzgesagt says they deleted the addiction video.
However, in Kurzgesagt’s full video, they actually go in depth as to how they conduct research and how that system has evolved over the years.
They say that some older videos do not live up to current standards and that they have been trying to figure out what to do with them for a while. The video then says they were not proud of the video about addiction and another about refugees, and so they removed them.
Stephen then accuses Dettmer of preempting his own research and stalling the interview so he could get ahead of the criticism. He adds that it is unfair for larger creators to steal content from smaller creators and goes on to say that there is no way this could be a coincidence.
However, Dettmer refutes this in the AMA.
When asked if he removed the addiction video because of the Coffee Break video, Dettmer says that he had been working on script regarding the addiction video and removing it for two years, but did not want to tell Stephon because he believed his video was going to be a “hostile takedown.”
Finally, Stephen talks about Johann Hari.
He shows a clip from “Can You Trust Kurzgesagt Videos?” which said: “The addiction video was based on only one source that has amassed a lot of criticism over the years, that addiction is purely physiological and based on the life circumstances of the individual.”
Stephen explains that Hari does not believe that addiction is purely psychological and that that idea was only a simplification that came from condensing his book into a 15 minute TED Talk.
He says if you look at Hari’s book and any interview’s he’s done, he does not actually hold such a simplified view and assets that Dettmer never read Hari’s book.
Stephen then plays a clip of a phone conversation he had with Hari, where he essentially says no one believes that addiction is purely environmental or purely chemical, and accuses Dettmer of scapegoating Hari and portraying him as crazy.
Dettmer refuted this as well on the AMA. When asked if he did read Hari’s book, Dettmer wrote: “Of course I did. After reading it, I very enthusiastically emailed him and asked him to collaborate on the video.”
Dettmer also noted that Hari wrote most of the script, “Which is the reason why it has such a big overlap with his Ted Talk.”
The Two Email’s Not Discussed
There were also two emails included in the imgur file that Stephen did not talk about in his video.
In the last of Stephen’s emails that he released, he says that he spoke to Hari, and that his story changed considerably after their conversation.
That conversation might explain why Stephen starts defending Hari’s work later in the video. Stephen also does not discuss the controversies he claimed discredit Hari and prove that his work could be considered “false information.” A fact that is worth noting because the discussion of the factual basis of Hari’s work was a huge talking point in the emails between Stephen and Dettmer.
The final email was actually from Dettmer on Feb. 21. He asked Stephen to send him questions and tells him he can talk to him the next week.
Stephen never responded to Dettmer’s email asking him for questions and trying to schedule the interview.
This fact was pointed out in a Reddit thread and Stephen responded by saying the only day he could have done the interview was March 1. He says that day he was busy polishing a video and before that he was on vacation.
The timeline here is odd because one of Stephen’s biggest complaints is that he was never given an interview before Kurzgesagt’s video was released.
However, it seems like he was given an interview, and he was just busy.
It is also clear that he never even sent the questions to Dettmer, which could indicate the interview was not actually a top priority for him.
Finally, Stephen concludes the video by saying you can only trust Kurzgesagt to do what’s best for himself and his channel and to make him look good, even if it means taking other people’s research, saying: “Simply put, I don’t think you can trust him to do the right thing when no one’s watching.”
Rogue Rocket reached out to Dettmer for comment and he responded with the following statement:
I didn’t stall him with malice in mind, but I also didn’t motivate him to work faster. Of
See what others are saying: (Johann Hari TED Talk) (Kurzgesagt “Addiction”) (Reddit AMA)
Child Influencers on YouTube Are Increasingly Promoting Junk Food, New Study Finds
- A new study that looked at food promotions among the top five kid influencers on YouTube in 2019 found that 94% of food featured on the channels were junk food items.
- The study is the first-ever done regarding kid influencers and food product placement.
- Among other influencers, the study found that Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World has often promoted unhealthy food, sometimes without properly disclosing that the content was an ad.
- Numerous studies have found that children are much more susceptible to advertising. According to the new report, coded advertising that blends with the show is especially effective, a practice seen in many kid influencer videos.
- The kinds of advertising noted in the study have long been banned on children’s TV programs, and now some are calling for similar regulations on YouTube.
New Study Findings
YouTube’s top child influencers have been increasingly promoting and marketing junk food to their young viewers, according to a new study published Monday by the journal Pediatrics.
According to the authors of the study, it is the first-ever of its kind that has examined “the extent to which kid influencers include food and beverage product placements in their YouTube videos.”
To conduct the study, researchers identified the top five most-watched kid influencers in 2019, and then searched for “50 of their most-watched videos and 50 of their videos that featured food and/or drinks on the thumbnail image of the video.”
In the sample of 418 videos met the search criteria, a total of 179 — nearly 40% — featured food or drinks, and of those products, the vast majority were unhealthy.
According to the study’s findings, 90% of all food and drink shown in the kids’ videos were unhealthy branded items like McDonald’s, followed by 4% of unhealthy unbranded items like hotdogs. Both healthy branded and unbranded food and drink composed just over 5% of all products featured.
Those numbers are particularly concerning because according to the researchers, just the 179 videos that featured food racked up 1 billion views and over 16 million impressions for those food and drink products.
The findings of the study are highly significant, especially as the videos cited come from kids who have a massive influence on the platform, like 8-year-old Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World.
Not only is Ryan easily the largest child influencer on YouTube, he is also one of the largest creators on the platform period. According to Forbes, he was the highest-earning YouTuber in 2019, bringing in an estimated $26 million last year alone.
In addition to his nearly 27 million subscribers, according to the Pediactrics study, his videos also account for over 64% of all views on every video ever produced by the top five child influencers analyzed.
Ryan’s scope is specifically relevant when it comes to the promotion of unhealthy food. According to The New York Times, some of the brands Ryan has been paid to promote include fast-food chains like Chuck E. Cheese, Lunchables, Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and others.
For example, both The Times and the Pediatrics study noted that one of his most popular videos shows him pretending to be a cashier at McDonald’s. In it, he wears a hat with the McDonald’s logo, serves plastic McDonald’s products to one of his toys, and then eats a McDonald’s Happy Meal. That video alone has been viewed nearly 95 million times.
Notably, Ryan’s World has been accused of not properly disclosing sponsorships in the past– including fast-food ads. Just last year, several senators accused the channel of running ads for Carl’s Jr. without disclosing that they were sponsored commercials and called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate.
Other groups have also made similar accusations against Ryan’s World, but it is by no means alone. To make matters more complicated, the authors of the Pediatrics study were also unable to tell when child influencers had been paid to promote the unhealthy products because they were not always clearly disclosed.
The FTC requires influencers to disclose any and all paid promotions, but as The Time’s notes, “critics say the policy is rarely enforced, and that influencers often ignore it.”
When it comes to kid influencers, the lack of proper disclosure is distinctly alarming because of the way these promotions are already ingrained in these child-targeted videos.
“The way these branded products are integrated in everyday life in these videos is pretty creative and unbelievable,” Marie Bragg, one of the authors of the study explained. “It’s a stealthy and powerful way of getting these unhealthy products in front of kids’ eyeballs.”
Other experts also noted that the power of these stealthy promotions is also amplified by the fact that parents may not realize or understand that their children are watching advertisements for fast food.
“These videos are incredibly powerful. Very busy parents may take a look at them and think that it’s just a cute kid talking enthusiastically about some product and not realize that it’s often part of a deliberate strategy to get their children excited about toys, or in the case of this study, unhealthy food,” said Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
“Young children view the stars of these videos as peers and friends and don’t understand that the reason YouTube stars like Ryan are so enthusiastic about products featured in there is because they are stealth marketers,” he added.
That last point is particularly noteworthy because young kids are especially susceptible to marketing. Studies have shown that children cannot distinguish between commercials and cartoons until they are eight or nine years old and that they are more likely to prefer junk food after seeing ads for them.
So when those ads are integrated into the videos kids are watching without any kind of disclosure or differentiation, everything just gets blended together even more, which can be especially potent when it comes to YouTube videos.
“My concern is that these ads may be like TV commercials on steroids,” said Bragg. “Kids watch on autoplay, which means they’ll see the same type of programming over and over again. Instead of 10 minutes of ads throughout a 30-minute TV show, they can end up seeing the same product over and over again.”
The idea that products promoted by children on YouTube could be an even more effective marketing technique than normal television ads targeted towards children is specifically distressing because that kind of advertising is in fact illegal on television.
For years, the FTC has long banned what is known as “host selling” on children’s television, which is where characters or hosts on a show try to sell products in commercials that air during those programs. However, those rules do not apply to YouTube, where hosts and characters can promote products during their shows.
While that practice has become commonplace, the issue becomes stickier when it comes to kids.
With these growing concerns, many people — including the authors of the study — have been calling for more regulation.
Some have specifically pointed to a piece of legislation proposed in March by Senators Ed Markey (D-Ma.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) which, among other things, would limit what they called “manipulative” advertising, like influencer marketing aimed at kids.
Even without legislation, the authors of the study also hope that the new awareness around kid influencers and junk food product placement brings change to the industry.
In a statement to The Times, Sunlight Entertainment, the production company for Ryan’s World, said that the channel, “cares deeply about the well-being of our viewers and their health and safety is a top priority for us. As such, we strictly follow all platforms terms of service, as well as any guidelines set forth by the FTC and laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels.”
“As we continue to evolve our content we look forward to ways we might work together in the future to benefit the health and safety of our audience,” the company said, adding that Ryan’s World welcomed the findings of the study.
However, without set regulations in place, it is unclear if Ryan’s World and other kid influencer channels will be held accountable, especially given their alleged track record of disobeying existing rules.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (U.S. News & World Report)
Mr Beast Defends Charli and Dixie D’Amelio Following Tournament Win Backlash
- Mr Beast held a trivia tournament Saturday where creators competed against each other for $300,000 to give to their fans.
- Charli and Dixie D’Amelio won the competition, however, many accused them of having an unfair advantage because they were allowed to compete as a team and had their parent’s beside them as well.
- Some online even suggested that the family may have been cheating through the use of phones or people off-camera.
- Mr Beast said fans should be mad at him, not the family, since it was his decision to allow multiple people on a team. Still, he noted that the tournament was just for fun and promised to make teams equal in future competitions.
Mr Beast Hosts Creator Tournament
Internet users lashed out at TikTok stars Charli and Dixie D’Amelio on Saturday, accusing them of cheating in YouTuber Mr Beast’s trivia competition.
Mr Beast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, held his latest influencer tournament that same day, following the success of his Rock Paper Scissors charity steam earlier this year. During the trivia event, 24 creators competed against one another for $300,000 to give to their fans.
Contestants included the likes of Addison Rae, Bretman Rock, KSI, Safiya Nygaard, Jaiden Animations, and tons of others, with the D’Amelio sisters ultimately being declared the winners.
However, many were unhappy with that, saying they cheated and had an unfair advantage. This is because the sisters were allowed to compete as a team and also brought their parents along with them.
It is worth noting that only Dixie competed in the final round of trivia against comic book artist and YouTuber ZHC. Still, many felt like the 4 on 1 match-ups weren’t fair and even suggested that the family was cheating through the use of phones or people off-screen.
Not just that my guy, they were using phones pic.twitter.com/cJmYlLQps4— mbdtf (@saintmankind) October 18, 2020
Mr Beast Defends D’Amelio Family
Mr Beast eventually had to try and diffuse the situation after seeing the family faced a slew of backlash online.
“I see some people mad that I let multiple people compete on a single team in the trivia tournament!” he wrote. “Honestly, the tournament was just for fun and to bring the community together and I’d appreciate if you were to get mad at anyone, get mad at me. It was my decision lol”
“The criticism is noted and I’ll definitely keep all the teams the same size next time! 100% my b Red heart,” he continued.
Fellow YouTubers expressed a similar sentiment about the competition being all for fun, with the money ultimately going to fans in need.
Tana Mongeau’s “Booty for Biden” Promotion Sparks Legal Concerns
- YouTube star Tana Mongeau has come under fire for offering nude photos to fans who proved they voted for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
- Some said it could be considered vote buying, which is a felony. Others said it encourages fans to take ballot selfies as proof, which are illegal in several states.
- Mongeau eventually added, “by proof I just meant tell me,” before ultimately deleting the post and writing, “in all seriousness if you can vote please do.”
- She did, however, claim that she received “tens of thousands of messages” from people telling her they voted for Biden.
Tana Launches #BootyForBiden Campaign
YouTuber Tana Mongeau promised to send nudes to Joe Biden supporters on Wednesday as part of her “Booty for Biden” campaign, which has now raised legal concerns.
Mongeau advertised the strategy in a Tweet, writing: “if you send me proof u voted for Biden I’ll send you a nude for free.”
That post, of course, was accompanied by a link to her OnlyFans page and the hashtag #bootyforbiden. However, the problem is that people said she was breaking the law and asking her fans to do the same.
Some say what she did could be considered vote buying, which is a felony punishable by a fine and up to two years behind bars. Because she was asking fans for proof of their vote, others said she was also encouraging ballot selfies, which are illegal in several states.
Tana Deletes Post
Mongeau eventually clarified what she meant by proof, saying, “I just meant tell me.”
She then ended up deleting her initial offer altogether, following up with, “in all seriousness if you can vote please do… not voting is voting and the world is scary.”
It’s unclear what the response to her post was like on her end, but she did later claim that her campaign “broke Tana Uncensored,” in an Instagram post that featured a NSFW photo of her with the Democratic candidates face photoshopped over hers.
“Tana Uncensored messages are broken, and the point has been made: I got tens of thousands of messages of people telling me that they willingly voted for Joe Biden,” Mongeau added in an Instagram Story.
“It’s the best thing ever. You don’t need my ass to make you go vote. So go vote because you wanna see a change in this country just like me, and thank you to everyone who joined me today. Booty for Biden.”
For now, it seems like the YouTuber is trying to join the list of stars encouraging their fans to vote, but the way she’s been doing it might be a problem.
Tana Loses YouTube Verification
Reports surfaced this weekend pointing out that Mongeau has just lost her YouTube verification check. As of now, there’s no confirmed reason, evidence, or explanation for this, but some internet users and media outlets are suggesting it could have to do with the controversy.
Neither Mongeau nor the platform has commented on the verification change so it’s tough to say if they are connected.
Meanwhile, fans online are offering up other explanations, saying it could be because she changed her name back from Tana Paul to Tana Mongeau.
It’s because she changed her name to Tana Paul and back to Tana Mongeau. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been verified since she changed it.— POCHAMA MIA (@NickPochama) October 4, 2020