- 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.”
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)
TikTok and Twitter Are Now Deleting Videos That Expose Closeted Olympians on Grindr
On top of outing people who may not be ready to have their sexuality revealed to the world, these videos could have endangered LGBTQ+ athletes from countries where homosexuality is illegal.
Closeted Olympians Being Doxxed
Openly LGBTQ+ Olympians are currently more visible than they have ever been before, but unfortunately, so are closeted ones.
That’s because some people have been using the LGBTQ+ dating app Grindr to try and find Olympians. They’ve been doing so by using the app’s “Explore” feature, which allows people to search and see users in specific locations (ie. Olympic Village).
But some aren’t content with just discovering which athletes belong to the LGBTQ+ community. They’re also sharing that information on platforms like TikTok and Twitter.
“I used Grindr’s explore feature to find myself [an] Olympian boyfriend,” one TikTok user said in a post that had been viewed 140,000 times, according to Insider.
That video reportedly went on to show the poster scrolling through Grindr to expose over 30 users’ full faces.
As many have argued, not only does this potentially out already-stressed Olympians who may not yet be comfortable sharing their sexuality, it also could put some users at serious risk if they live in countries where being LGBTQ+ is illegal.
In fact, the video cited by Insider seemingly did just that, as it reportedly shows the face of a user who appears to be from a country “known for its anti-LGBTQ policies.”
Grindr Responds, TikTok and Twitter Take Action
In response, Grindr said the posts violate its rules against “publicly displaying, publishing, or otherwise distributing any content or information” from the app. It then asked the posters to remove the content.
Ultimately, it was TikTok and Twitter themselves that largely took action, with the two deleting at least 14 posts scattered across their platforms.
Twitter says it’s taking steps to remove the posts flagged by Insider showing Grindr’s explore page at the Olympic Village. TikTok has yet to give an on the record response. pic.twitter.com/r11pNL6Lwu— Benjamin Goggin (@BenjaminGoggin) July 28, 2021
A Highly-Visible LGBTQ+ Presence at the Games
According to Outsports, at least 172 of around 11,000 Olympians are openly LGBTQ+. While that number is still well below the statistical average, it’s triple the number of LGBTQ+ athletes that attended Rio’s 2016 Games.
In fact, if they were their own country, openly LGBTQ+ athletes would reportedly rank 11th in medals, according to an Outsports report published Tuesday.
Among those winners is British diver Tom Daley, who secured his first gold medal on Monday and used his platform to send a hopeful message to LGBTQ+ youth by telling them, “You are not alone.”
After winning a silver medal on Wednesday, U.S. swimmer Erica Sullivan talked about her experience as both a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a person of color.
Still, the Olympics has faced criticism for its exclusion of intersex individuals, particularly those like South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya, who won gold medals in both 2012 and 2016. Rules implemented in 2019 now prevent Semenya from competing as a woman without the use of medication to suppress her testosterone levels.
Jake Paul Launches Anti-Bullying Charity
The charity, called Boxing Bullies, aims to use the sport to give kids confidence and courage.
Jake Paul Launches Boxing Bullies Foundation
YouTuber Jake Paul — best known as the platform’s boxer, wreckless partier, and general troublemaker — has seemingly launched a non-profit to combat bullying.
The charity is called Boxing Bullies. According to a mission statement posted on Instagram, it aims to “instill self confidence, leadership, and courage within the youth through the sport of boxing while using our platform, voice, and social media to fight back against bullying.”
If the notion of a Paul-founded anti-bullying charity called “Boxing Bullies” was not already begging to be compared to former First Lady Melania Trump’s “Best Best” initiative, maybe the group’s “Boxing Bullies Commandments” will help connect the dots. Those commandments use an acronym for the word “BOX” to spell out the charity’s golden rules.
“Be kind to everyone; Only defend, never initiate; X-out bullying.”
Paul Hopes To “Inspire” Kids To Stand Up For Themselves
Paul first said he was launching Boxing Bullies during a July 13 interview following a press conference for his upcoming fight against Tyron Woodley.
“I know who I am at the end of the day, which is a good person,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to change this sport, bring more eyeballs. I’m trying to support other fighters, increase fighter pay. I’m starting my charity, I’m launching that in 12 days here called Boxing Bullies and we’re helping to fight against cyberbullying.”
It has not been quite 12 days since the interview, so it’s likely that more information about the organization will be coming soon. Currently, the group has been the most active on Instagram, where it boasts a following of just around 1,200 followers. It has posted once to Twitter, where it has 32 followers; and has a TikTok account that has yet to publish any content. It also has a website, though there is not too much on it as of yet.
On its Instagram, one post introducing Paul as the founder claims the rowdy YouTuber started this charity because he has been on the receiving end of bullying.
“Having been a victim of bullying himself, Jake experienced firsthand the impact it has on a person’s life,” the post says. “Jake believes that this is a prevailing issue in society that isn’t talked about enough. Boxing gave Jake the confidence to not care about what others think and he wants to share the sport and the welfare it‘s had on him with as many kids as possible.”
It adds that he hopes his group can“inspire the next generation of kids to be leaders, be athletes, and to fight back against bullying.”
Paul Previously Accused of Being a Bully
While fighting against bullying is a noble cause, it is an ironic project for Paul to start, as he has faced no shortage of bullying accusations. While Paul previously sang about “stopping kids from getting bullied” in the lunchroom, some have alleged he himself was actually a classic high school bully who threw kids’ backpacks into garbage cans.
This behavior allegedly continued into his adulthood, as a New York Times report from earlier this year claimed he ran his Team 10 house with a culture of toxicity and bullying. Among other things, sources said he involved others in violent pranks, pressured people into doing dangerous stunts, and destroyed peoples’ personal property to make content.
See what others are saying: (Dexerto)
Director Defends Recreating Anthony Bourdain’s Voice With AI in New Documentary
The film’s director claims he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent, but on Thursday, Bourdain’s widow publicly denied ever giving that permission.
Bourdain’s Voice Recreated
“You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?” Anthony Bourdain says in a voiceover featured in “Roadrunnner,” a newly released documentary about the late chef — except Bourdain never actually said those words aloud.
Instead, it’s one of three lines in the film, which features frequent voiceovers from Bourdain, that were created through the use of artificial intelligence technology.
That said, the words are Bourdain’s own. In fact, they come from an email Bourdain reportedly wrote to a friend prior to his 2018 suicide. Nonetheless, many have now questioned whether recreating Bourdain’s voice was ethical, especially since documentaries are meant to reflect reality.
Director Defends Use of AI Voice
The film’s director, Academy Award winner Morgan Neville, has defended his use of the synthetic voice, telling Variety that he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent before inserting the lines into the film.
“There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud,” Neville said. “It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to make Tony’s words come alive.”
Bourdain’s widow — Ottavia Bourdain, who is the executor of his estate — later denied Neville’s claim on Twitter, saying, “I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that.”
In another interview with GQ, Neville described the process, saying the film’s creators “fed more than ten hours of Tony’s voice into an AI model.”
“The bigger the quantity, the better the result,” he added. “We worked with four companies before settling on the best.”
“If you watch the film,” Neville told The New Yorker, “you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know. We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”
The Ethics Debate Isn’t Being Tabled
But many want to have that discussion now.
Boston-based film critic Sean Burns, who gave the film a rare negative review, later criticized it again for its unannounced use of AI, saying he wasn’t aware that Bourdain’s voice had been recreated until after he watched the documentary.
Meanwhile, The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner wrote that the “seamlessness of the effect is eerie.”
“If it had been a human voice double I think the reaction would be “huh, ok,” but there’s something truly unsettling about the idea of it coming from a computer,” Rosner later tweeted.
Online, many others have criticized the film’s use of AI, with some labeling it as a “deepfake.”
Others have offered more mixed criticism, saying that while the documentary highlights the need for posthumous AI use to be disclosed, it should not be ruled out altogether.
“In a world where the living could consent to using AI to reproduce their voices posthumously, and where people were made aware that such a technology was being used, up front and in advance, one could envision that this kind of application might serve useful documentary purposes,” David Leslie, ethics lead at the Alan Turing Institute, told the BBC.
Celebrities Recreated After Death
The posthumous use of celebrity likeness in media is not a new debate. In 2012, a hologram of Tupac took the stage 15 years after his death. In 2014, the Billboard Music Awards brought a hologram of Michael Jackson onstage five years after his death. Meanwhile, the Star Wars franchise digitally recreated actor Peter Cushing in 2016’s “Rogue One,” and unused footage of actress Carrie Fisher was later translated into “The Rise of Skywalker,” though a digital version of Fisher was never used.
In recent years, it has become almost standard for filmmakers to say that they will not create digital versions of characters whose actors die unexpectedly. For example, several months after Chadwick Boseman’s death last year, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” executive producer Victoria Alonso confirmed Boseman would not be digitally recreated for his iconic role as King T’Challa.