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MrBeast, Jeffree Star, and FaZe Clan Received Coronavirus Relief Loans

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  • Jeffree Star, MrBeast, and FaZe Clan all received Paycheck Protection Program loans designed to help small businesses during the pandemic, according to a ProPublica database that tracks the disbursement of the federal loans.
  • MrBeast and Star both received loans ranging from $350,000 to $1 million, and FaZe Clan confirmed they had received $1.1 million.
  • Representatives for FaZe Clan and MrBeast defended the move in statements to Mashable and said they were concerned about the future of their financial situations and the loss of brand deals when they applied.
  • The move prompted backlash from people who argued the money should have gone to small businesses that needed it to survive, not wealthy creators.
  • Others, however, said that the government is responsible for who receives PPP loans. In fact, the program has received significant criticism in the past for giving loans to wealthy and politically connected organizations at the expense of small businesses in high need.

PPP Loans to Big Creators

Companies belonging to YouTube creators Jeffree Star and MrBeast as well as the esports organization FaZe Clan all received federal loans intended to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The loans were given as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was signed into law under the CARES Act.

Reports about these specific creators were first reported on Wednesday by Mashable, which found the information in a searchable  ProPublica database that tracks all the PPP money that has been doled out.

According to the database, Jeffree Star Cosmetics was approved for a loan ranging from $350,000 to $1 million on May 3. MrBeast YouTube LLC was approved for a loan in the same range about a month earlier on April 14. The PPP application for FaZe Clan Inc was accepted at the end of April, for a loan ranging from $1 to $2 million.

“MrBeast and Jeffree Star’s loans are particularly surprising because both YouTubers have built brands on luxury and extravagance,” Mashable reported. 

“As thousands of small businesses struggle to stay afloat amid continued social distancing restrictions, YouTubers and other online figures are still able to safely churn out content. Immensely successful companies like Jeffree Star’s and FaZe Clan are hardly the brands hurting the most right now.”

Breakdown of Loans

To support those claims, the article goes on to give a more detailed look at the finances of each company and creator.

Staring with MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, Mashable detailed the frequent and hefty giveaways the creator often holds.

“[He] frequently gives away cash prizes, cars, and most recently, a private island through outlandish stunts,” the outlet reported, noting that he has been described as “YouTube’s viral philanthropist,” and detailing some of his more recent big charitable giveaways.

In June, MrBeast pledged to split a $150,000 donation to organizations supporting racial justice and police reform as well as several small businesses. As for how much PPP money his company got, a representative who talked to Mashable did not say, but the outlet reported MrBeast YouTube LLC received a total of $377,000.

“Multiple sponsors pulled out of projects, our advertising revenue plummeted by 70 percent, and we had numerous finished videos we couldn’t post,” the representative explained to Mashable. “We didn’t have access to testing, so we also had no idea at the time when we would be able to produce new content. We felt this was the best avenue that would help us weather the storm.”

The spokesperson also said that that the company is different from MrBeast’s personal accounts, and added that “all charitable donations, including a $150,000 to Black Lives Matter and $250,000 to SpecialEffect of course did not come from company resources.”

As for Jeffree Star, Mashable points to the wealth he has accumulated from his makeup empire. In 2018, Star was listed on Forbes’ highest-paid YouTubers. That year, he reportedly brought in $18 million and Jeffree Star Cosmetics was worth an estimated $100 million.

The article does note that Star likely took a hit because Morphe cut ties with him, but that happened after he was approved for the loan on May 3.

Regarding FaZe Clan, Mashable reported that the organization is valued at $240 million and ranks fourth on Forbes’ most valuable esports companies. As for how much money they got, the head of communications for the organization confirmed that they had received $1.1 million. 

Notably, the outlet also pointed out that in early April— just a few weeks before they were given that loan— FaZe Clan announced that they had  “closed out a $40 million funding round that also secured an exclusive partnership with NTWRK, an e-commerce platform that also works with Nike and Puma.” 

At the time, FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink told Forbes that despite the circumstances, “we are fortunate we are in the right industry for a moment like this, when everyone is turning to esports and streaming, and we are positioned to be bigger on the other side of it.”

In a statement to Mashable, Trink defended taking the PPP loan.

“As a growing business, we continued to expand our staff in January. We are grateful for the PPP loan because it has allowed us to retain 100 percent of our employees despite having to reduce our revenue projection by many millions in esports alone due to the pandemic,” he said.

“It has always been our intention to repay the loan in full and we plan to as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Response

Many peopled responded to the news on social media and expressed anger that these companies had received money set aside for small businesses.

Others also took specific aim at MrBeast, asking why he would take money from the government that had been designated for struggling companies if he had enough personal wealth to be giving away his own money.

“Small businesses desperately applying for PPP loans and shutting down after not receiving it are victims of the actions of Mr. Beast and others like him,” one Twitter user wrote. “He has no right to take govt money and then re-give out to those he deems worthy. That’s simply powerful ppl playing with $$”

On the other side, some people also said that MrBeast deserved the loan because he helps people. Others still argued that these companies and creators are not directly to blame and that its really on the government to decide who the loans go to.

From early on, the Trump administration has received significant backlash over its handling of the PPP loan disbursements, specifically in regards to who has received them and who has not.

When the money was first being sent out, massive outrage spread over the fact that Shake Shack received a $10 million PPP loan, which it eventually gave back. Since then, there has also been anger around other big recipients like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, the Catholic Church, and the Lakers.

Companies owned by wealthy celebrities like Khloe Kardashian, Kanye West, and Reese Witherspoon have also drawn ire for receiving PPP aid.

Problems From the Top

While some have argued that those people never should have applied in the first place, there is also hard evidence showing tons of issues with how this money has been allocated from the top down.

Earlier this month, a House oversight committee concluded that thousands of PPP loans were given to companies that should not have received them. 

According to a report released just last Tuesday by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, the Trump administration gave hundreds of loans to companies that did not even fill out complete applications, as well as nearly $100 million to companies that were ineligible for the loans because they had been banned from working with the federal government.

Other studies and reports have found that many large companies got loans before small businesses, who were largely left out of the first round of loan distributions despite needing the money the most. 

For example, economists at the University of Chicago and MIT found that just 15% of companies in the areas “most affected by declines in hours worked and business shutdowns” received PPP funding, but in areas least affected, 30% of companies received PPP funding. 

Even beyond all of that, there are a ton of problems with the data and records of the loans that not only call into question how the program is managed but also how effective it has been in helping companies keep employees on their payroll.

According to a recent report by The Los Angeles Times, out of the roughly 4.9 million loans awarded as of July, over 550,000 approved applications listed zero jobs retained, and over 320,000 left it blank entirely. Seven loans even listed negative jobs retained. 

The Times also reported that many small businesses were approved for loans much bigger than what they actually recieved and that there was no explanation for the discrepancy in the data.

Both Democrats and Republicans have pushed for another round of PPP funding in the next coroanvirus stimulus bill, but without a massive overhaul to the system and increased accountability measures, many are concerned the loans will continue to be improperly allocated.

See what others are saying: (Mashable) (Insider) (The Los Angeles Times)

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Former Member of David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad Says He Was Sexually Assaulted by Jason Nash on Video

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  • 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)

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Australia Strikes Deal With Facebook To Restore News on the Platform

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  • 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 a government-appointed arbitrator.

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)

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PewDiePie “Disappointed” by YouTube’s Removal of His CoComelon Diss Track

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  • 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.”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Bloomberg) (Dexerto)

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