- Multiple people have accused YouTuber Jared “ProJared” Knabenbauer of sending and requesting sexually explicit pictures from fans, including at least two people who were underage at the time.
- The accusations surfaced after Knabenbauer’s wife, Heidi O’Ferrall, said that he had been abusive and said that he had been “soliciting nudes from his fans for years.”
- The creator collective Knabenbauer belonged to, NormalBoots, said in a statement that they were first informed of the allegations on April 4, which prompted them to start an investigation and eventually cut ties with Knabenbauer.
- Knabenbauer has lost more than 200,000 subscribers since the allegations were made public.
Popular YouTube gamer Jared “ProJared” Knabenbauer has been accused of sending and soliciting sexually explicit pictures from his fans, including at least two individuals who were underage.
The allegations first came to light on Wednesday when Knabenbauer, who had over one million YouTube subscribers, announced in a statement on Twitter that he was divorcing his wife, cosplayer Heidi O’Ferrall.
O’Ferrall responded in a series of tweets accusing Knabenbauer of cheating on her and repeatedly lying about it. She claimed that he “gaslit” her for months and acted abusively.
He told his friends a version of events that omits his infidelity and portrays me as an aggressive and unreasonable person. As though I’m randomly angry and upset all the time, for no reason at all.— Heidi O’Ferrall✨ (@AtelierHeidi) May 9, 2019
It’s because he’s abusing me.
In a separate post, O’Ferrall also said that Knabenbauer “has been soliciting nudes from his fans for years.”
“I used to think that among consenting adults, it was fine,” she wrote on Twitter. “Now I see it as an abuse of power for him to intentionally manipulate anyone to show him their naked body on the basis that he’s a popular internet man.”
I used to think that among consenting adults, it was fine. Now I see it as an abuse of power for him to intentionally manipulate anyone to show him their naked body on the basis that he’s a popular internet man.— Heidi O’Ferrall✨ (@AtelierHeidi) May 9, 2019
I would like to apologize for my role in enabling this.
Others Come Forward
Following O’Ferrall’s post, several others came forward to share their experiences, with some saying that he would often send them explicit pictures that were unsolicited.
Those who came forward included at least two people who claim that they were underage at the time of their interactions with Knabenbauer. One fan, who goes by Chai, tweeted details, but later set his Twitter account to private.
“ProJared sexually manipulated me via Tumblr when I was 16,” Chai wrote, according to a reuploaded screenshot of his post. “I sent him many actual, real nudes. He knew I was 16.”
Chai also said that he sent lewd pictures to ProJared’s blog “with the explicit instruction ‘do not post this online. I’m 16.’ He posted them anyway.”
Chai noted in his statement that he had another friend who was also underage and “had been manipulated in the same way,” Chai said this individual was planning on coming forward.
Shortly after, a user who goes by Charlie came forward with a story similar to Chai’s. In a Twitter thread, Charlie shared a statement of their experience with Knabenbauer and provided screenshots of their conversations.
In the statement, Charlie writes that they were a “really big fan of ProJared” when they were “around the same age as Chai (15-16).” Charlie said that Knabenbauer asked fan’s on his Tumblr account to send naked pictures, noting that the blog was “in no way age restricted.”
“Jared is a grown man, I’m sure he understands that a significant chunk of his audience are middle and high schoolers,” Charlie wrote. “An open invitation to send him nudes is oddly predatory […] especially when there is a risk for minors (again, a good portion of his following) sending nudes.”
Charlie then goes on to say that they eventually sent Knabenbauer naked pictures.“He messaged me and thanked me and told me I was beautiful,” Charlie wrote. “I don’t think he ever asked for my age.”
Since Chai and Charlie made their statements, others have come forward to talk about the Tumblr blog Knabenbauer created to send and share explicit pictures with his fans.
Rogue Rocket spoke to a Twitter user who goes by Bren, who told us they never interacted with Knabenbauer personally, but described themself as a witness to the blog. Bren said they found Knabenbauer’s blog in group chat for the game “Asagao Academy.”
“I remember that a handful of people in the group chat were into the blog, many were minors,” Bren said. “I would say that him creating the whole blog was incredibly manipulative. His fan base was made up of so many underage fans.”
Bren described how Knabenbauer would refer to his fans who submitted naked pictures as “sinners.”
“Two adults wouldn’t say they’re ‘sinning’ when sharing nudes, but a teenager who hasn’t had the chance to explore their sexuality might have that view,” Bren said. “So to me, all of the talk about sinning and sinners felt like he was well aware that there was a large gap in the levels of sexual experience between him and his fans, and I think he got off to this idea of him, a 30 something year old man, being “naughty” and “sinful” with people half his age.. essentially grooming a whole group of fans.”
“Not to mention the power dynamic between a famous Youtuber and his audience, which is only amplified when much of that audience is underage,” Bren continued. “So when he was asking for nudes on his tumblr, it only made sense that his underage fans would answer that call.”
Bren’s experience was echoed by a person who goes by Asa, who spoke to The Daily Beast about their experience messaging Knabenbauer.
“I was freshly 18, and I had absolutely no romantic or sexual experiences,” Asa said. “He asked if I was over 18, and I said yes, mentioning that my birthday was scarcely a few months prior. He said that he was honored I would want to ‘use’ my newfound legality with him.”
Asa also claimed that it was “barely a secret” that underage people were interacting with Knabenbauer blog, adding, “I know a few of my friends had taken their ages off of their page so that Jared couldn’t verify that they were under 18.”
In response to the allegations, NormalBoots, the creator collective that Knabenbauer is a part of, posted a statement on Twitter, saying that they had been informed of the allegations in an email a month prior.
“On April 4, 2019, an unsolicited e-mail was sent to the NormalBoots business account containing allegations of inappropriate conduct pertaining to Jared Knabenbauer,” the statement said. “Upon receiving the e-mail, NormalBoots Manager, Jacque Khalil took immediate action to alert the appropriate parties, including Mr. Knabenbauer and the NormalBoots legal team, of the allegations. No other members of NormalBoots were made aware of the allegations while the investigation into the allegations was ongoing.”
The statement goes on to say that NormalBoots had planned to terminate their relationship with Knabenbauer before the allegations were made public, but have since “mutually agreed to part ways.”
In a Twitter post, Chai said that he and Charlie sent the email to NormalBoots, and shared a screenshot of the email the two received from them.
Knabenbauer himself has yet to make a statement, but many of his fans and others in the community have started to distance themselves from him. According to SocialBlade, Knabenbauer’s YouTube channel lost more than 100,000 subscribers in the first 24 hours after the allegations came out alone. Since then, he has lost a total of more than 200,000 followers.
Other gamers creators have also been distancing themselves from Knabenbauer as well, like popular creator collective Game Grumps, which has started deleting videos that Knabenbauer appeared in.
The accusations against Knabenbauer represents part of the broader problem of popular YouTubers using their position to prey on underage fans. Just two weeks ago, famous YouTuber Austin Jones was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for soliciting sexually explicit photos from multiple underage fans, some of whom were as young as 14.
Updates: This article was originally posted on May 10, but has been updated to include statements from Bren and Asa, the correct pronouns for Charlie, and updated records of ProJared’s subscriber loss as of May 14.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (The Verge) (Kotaku)
Former Member of David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad Says He Was Sexually Assaulted by Jason Nash on Video
- Former Vlog Squad member Seth Francois says he was sexually assaulted in a 2017 prank that YouTubers David Dobrik and Jason Nash pulled on him.
- Francois agreed to be in a video where he would make out with fellow Vlog Squad member Corinna Kopf while she was disguised as an old man. However, the costumed person he actually kissed was 45-year-old Nash.
- In 2018, Dobrik pulled a nearly identical prank on Francois again, despite Francois repeatedly stating he was not okay with what happened.
- Francois says he is not trying to “cancel” anyone but his attempts to resolve the matter behind closed doors with Dobrik have not been successful, so he felt he had to tell his story publicly.
Seth Francois Calls Kissing Prank Sexual Assault
Former Vlog Squad member Seth Francois says he was sexually assaulted in a prank that massive YouTuber David Dobrik pulled on him with fellow creator Jason Nash.
Francois first told his story to Ethan and Hila Klein on the H3 Podcast on Feb. 12. The prank in question happened in 2017. At the time, Dobrik asked Francois if he wanted to be in a video where he made out with Corinna Kopf while she was disguised as an old man. Francois agreed, but when he kissed the costumed person, Kopf was not the one behind the mask. Instead, it was 45-year-old Nash.
“I was touched by someone I did not consent to,” Francois said on the podcast.
He told BuzzFeed News that it felt wrong when it happened, but as more time passed, he began to feel even worse. He decided to call a sexual assault hotline to talk about and processs the situation.
“They said, ‘I’m sorry you were sexually assaulted.’ And I broke down,” Francois told the outlet. “I called my mother and some of my close friends and I said, ‘I can’t believe that happened to me.'”
Francois said Dobrik asked if they could make a similar video again, but Francois refused, explaining he did not like the prank and did not want to have to go through that again. Still, in 2018 Dobrik ended up pulling a nearly identical stunt.
The second time, Dobrik told Francois that they were making a commercial for Jack Link’s Jerky, which Francois was thrilled about. When Francois got to the set, there were people in gorilla costumes, and he was instructed to make out with one. When that person took their mask off, it was Nash again.
Francois said this incident ultimately led to him moving out of Los Angeles.
Jack Link’s Jerky has since tweeted that they were not involved in the stunt and do not condone any non-consensual conduct that occurred.
Other Allegations Against Dobrik and The Vlog Squad
On top of all this, Francois said that during his time in the Vlog Squad, he was pressured to participate in racist jokes that played into stereotypes about Black people. He felt he could not say no to these bits.
“It was an unwritten thing where you see a pattern of people saying, ‘Yo, I’m uncomfortable with this,’ and all of a sudden they disappear and they’re not in videos anymore,” he explained on the H3 Podcast.
These are just the latest in a series of accusations former Vlog Squad members have made about Dobrik, Nash, and group’s general culture. Nik Keswani, known to fans as Big Nik, explained to H3 that the group was “toxic” and like a cult. Keswani said that he was bullied and felt forced to make jokes about his own size, which led to other people thinking they could make fun of him in cruel ways.
YouTuber Trisha Paytas has also accused Dobrik and Nash of inappropriate behavior on multiple occasions. Both she and Francois also say they have heard rumors about Nash assaulting other people or sleeping with minors. In some cases, Paytas says victims have contacted her directly about it.
Dobrik has not commented on the sexual assault allegations brought up by Francois, but over the summer he did issue a general apology for offensive content he had posed in his past.
“I want them to have a positive experience when they interact with anything I produce,” he said on his podcast, “Views.”
“And with that being said, I feel like on a handful of occasions I just missed the mark on that, and that really bums me out.”
Why Francois Is Speaking Out
For a long time, Dobrik has been a top creator on YouTube. He is known for his Tesla giveaways and was dubbed Gen Z’s Jimmy Fallon by The Wall Street Journal. Francois said he felt the need to speak out because he fears Dobrik is not remorseful and is unaware of the harm he has caused.
“If [Dobrik and Nash] don’t know what’s wrong and they don’t understand that what they did was wrong, it makes me feel like that could still happen. Or maybe it has happened to other people who are afraid of speaking up,” he told BuzzFeed.
Francois said that he has asked for the videos to be removed, but Dobrik tried to offer him cash to keep them up. Dobrik eventually unlisted both prank videos and later privated the second one.
Francois has since tried to resolve the matter privately but has not gotten a response from Dobrik. He told Insider that his goal in speaking up is not to “cancel” anyone, though he felt he had no option but to make the matter public. He is now also considering legal action, which is a path he initially did not want to go down.
“People were saying I’ve betrayed David, but I feel like he betrayed me,” he told the outlet. “I was very hurt and even right now talking about it, it really makes you want to cry.”
“They profited off causing me a lot of mental trauma, which is something that really hurts to know,” he continued.
Now, people are calling for Dobrik to respond to the allegations. Many are starting to see his content in a new light and believe he should issue an apology.
See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (Insider) (Yahoo)
Australia Strikes Deal With Facebook To Restore News on the Platform
- Facebook said Monday that it will restore news access to Australian users after striking a deal with the country.
- Last week, Facebook cut off all access to news on the platform in Australia in response to a proposed law that would force it to pay media publishers for hosting their content.
- In the days that followed, the Australian government offered several concessions to the proposed law, including giving the platform more time to lock down deals with media publishers.
- Per another amendment, it’s also possible that Facebook could largely escape the law altogether if it is able to strike enough deals with local media organizations.
Facebook Will Restore News
Facebook struck a deal with Australian lawmakers Monday to restore news on the platform in the country.
The announcement comes as a quick turnaround from last week when Facebook made good on a threat to block all forms of news in Australia. Notably, that ban was in response to the expected passing of a law requiring large tech companies to pay media publishers for content that appears on their platforms.
On top of blocking all news organizations in the country, Facebook also blocked all Australian outlets globally. In fact, the ban even seemed to target non-news sources, such as state health departments and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
After several days of discussions between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Facebook seems to be content with several negotiated changes to the proposed law.
“We have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers,” Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook, said.
Among those changes, Facebook will receive more time to lock down deals with publishers instead of being forced into immediately making payments. The original draft of the law would have required Facebook to pay for content (ie. headlines, links, etc.) based upon terms set by an independent third party.
Now, that third party will only intervene as a “last resort,” according to Facebook spokesperson Adam Isserlis in an interview with NBC News.
One amendment in the proposed law could also give Facebook a shot at skirting it all together. That’s because it stipulates that digital platforms which have significantly contributed to the Australian news industry could receive exemptions.
Facebook, for example, might be able to find such an exemption if it brokers enough deals with local publishers.
Facebook said news should be restored for Australian users in the coming days.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Axios) (The New York Times)
PewDiePie “Disappointed” by YouTube’s Removal of His CoComelon Diss Track
- In a live stream Sunday, PewDiePie said he was “really disappointed” and disagreed with YouTube’s decision to remove his latest diss track aimed at the popular children’s channel CoComelon.
- The YouTuber added that his live stream was not the right place to address the controversy and did not comment further.
- YouTube removed his diss track Thursday for violating its child safety policy because it looked like it was made for kids but contained violence and other inappropriate content.
- The platform also said the video violated its harassment policy, noting that it allows criticism and diss tracks, but this one “crossed the line” because it “had the effect of encouraging abusive fan behavior.”
PewDiePie Addresses Controversy
PewDiePie briefly responded to YouTube’s decision to remove his latest diss track for violating its child safety and harassment policies.
In a live stream Sunday, the YouTuber seemed hesitant to address the controversy at length. “If there’s a place for me to address it, it’s not during a livestream, but I also really want to play today,” he said.
“So I’m just going to say I’m really disappointed, and I obviously disagree, but I’m not going to address it further than that today. Sorry guys,” he continued.
He also admitted that part of him did not want to live stream because he knew he would be bombarded with questions about the diss track, which made headlines since YouTube’s Thursday announcement.
The Diss Track
Last week, PewDiePie uploaded a diss track aimed at the popular children’s YouTube channel CoComelon, a nursery rhyme channel with 105 million subscribers and over 94 billion total channel views.
In the last few months, CoComelon earned PewDiePie’s attention after it became clear that it could quickly surpass him in subscribers and maybe even become the platform’s biggest channel. That prompted fans to ask for a diss track like the ones PewDiePie famously made during his subscriber battle with the Indian media company T-Series.
Just days after uploading the video, however, YouTube pulled it down. Team YouTube then took to Twitter to explain the decision, writing: “To clarify, this violated two policies 1) Child safety: by looking like it was made for kids but containing inappropriate content (incl violence) 2) Harassment: we allow criticism & also diss tracks in some cases, but w/ both policies in mind, this video crossed the line.”
The platform also banned all full and partial reuploads, though it allows still images from the video.
The video may have disappeared from YouTube, but uploads of it still exist elsewhere on the internet. For those who haven’t seen it, does include a lot of swearing and vulgar jokes. PewDiePie even throws in some digs at Tekashi 69 and JK Rowling, and near the end, children in the video appear to use fake weapons to attack a watermelon – a reference to CoComelon’s watermelon logo.
According to YouTube, the removal did not result in a channel strike, but further violations of its policies may result in one.
“Our policies prohibit content that leads to repeated patterns of harassment on- and off-platform,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “Following a review, we’ve removed the video in question for violating those policies because they had the effect of encouraging abusive fan behavior.”
While some might find that hard to believe that the video could incite abuse, it’s worth noting that PewDiePie’s previous T-Series diss tracks may have set a precedent here. Those songs, and the global campaign to make PewDiePie the #1 most subscribed channel on YouTube, led to an outpouring of harassment and sometimes racist sentiments against T-Series.
Still, others think YouTube could have age-gated his CoComelon video to avoid any issues. Others also noted that the platform has allowed more graphic music videos to remain on its site and suggested that it consistently protects channels that bring in the most ad revenue.
Before YouTube’s decision, PewDiePie said he was proud of the diss track and stressed that the song would put an end to his fake feud with CoComelon.
“I wanted to make it clear before I start this video by saying that, you know, I saw this as the finale. I saw this as ending the meme,” he explained.
“I’m not going to continue with it because number 1: It would just not be funny. And number 2: I don’t actually care about CoComelon. Like if anyone ever passes me in the future, I’m not going to make a whole spiel out of it. It was fun for what it was. And number 3: I don’t want it to get out of control like it did last time. So I just wanna be clear. Keep it civil. Keep it fun.”