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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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Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos

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The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.


Bezos Prank

Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 

According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws. 

For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform. 

The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.

It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end. 

The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions. 

First Twitch Hack 

Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.

That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019. 

It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.

Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Forbes) (CNET)

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Twitch Blames Server Configuration Error for Hack, Says There’s No Indication That Login Info Leaked

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The platform also said full credit card numbers were not reaped by hackers, as that data is stored externally. 


Login and Credit Card Info Secure

Twitch released a security update late Wednesday claiming it had seen “no indication” that users’ login credentials were stolen by hackers who leaked the entire platform’s source code earlier in the day.

“Full credit card numbers are not stored by Twitch, so full credit card numbers were not exposed,” the company added in its announcement.

The leaked data, uploaded to 4chan, includes code related to the platform’s security tools, as well as exact totals of how much it has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019. 

Early Thursday, Twitch also announced that it has now reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Streamers looking for their new keys can visit a dashboard set up by the platform, though users may need to manually update their software with the new key before being able to stream again depending on what kind of software they use.

As far as what led to the hackers being able to steal the data, Twitch blamed an error in a “server configuration change that was subsequently accessed by a malicious third party,” confirming that the leak was not the work of a current employee who used internal tools. 

Will Users Go to Other Streaming Platforms?

While no major creators have said they are leaving Twitch for a different streaming platform because of the hack, many small users have either announced their intention to leave Twitch or have said they are considering such a move. 

It’s unclear if the leak, coupled with other ongoing Twitch controversies, will ultimately lead to a significant user exodus, but there’s little doubt that other platforms are ready and willing to leverage this hack in the hopes of attracting new users. 

At least one big-name streamer has already done as much, even if largely only presenting the idea as a playful jab rather than with serious intention. 

“Pretty crazy day today,” YouTube’s Valkyrae said on a stream Wednesday while referencing a tweet she wrote earlier the day.

“YouTube is looking to sign more streamers,” that tweet reads. 

I mean, they are! … No shade to Twitch… Ah! Well…” Valkyrae said on stream before interrupting herself to note that she was not being paid by YouTube to make her comments. 

See what others are saying: (Engadget) (BBC) (Gamerant)

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The Entirety of Twitch Has Been Leaked Online, Including How Much Top Creators Earn

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The data dump, which could be useful for some of Twitch’s biggest competitors, could signify one of the most encompassing platform leaks ever.


Massive Collection of Data Leaked 

Twitch’s full source code was uploaded to 4chan Wednesday morning after it was obtained by hackers.

Among the 125 GB of stolen data is information revealing that Amazon, which owns Twitch, has at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library. That library, codenamed Vapor, would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.

With Amazon being the all-encompassing giant that it is, it’s not too surprising that it would try to develop a Steam rival, but it’s eyecatching news nonetheless considering how much the release of Vapor could shake up the market.

The leaked data also showcased exactly how much Twitch has paid its creators, including the platform’s top accounts, such as the group CriticalRole, as well as steamers xQcOW, Tfue, Ludwig, Moistcr1tikal, Shroud, HasanAbi, Sykkuno, Pokimane, Ninja, and Amouranth.

These figures only represent payouts directly from Twitch. Each creator mentioned has made additional money through donations, sponsorships, and other off-platform ventures. Sill, the information could be massively useful for competitors like YouTube Gaming, which is shelling out big bucks to ink deals with creators. 

Data related to Twitch’s internal security tools, as well as code related to software development kits and its use of Amazon Web Services, was also released with the hack. In fact, so much data was made public that it could constitute one of the most encompassing platform dumps ever.

Creators Respond

Streamer CDawgVA, who has just under 500,000 subscribers on Twitch, tweeted about the severity of the data breach on Wednesday.

“I feel like calling what Twitch just experienced as “leak” is similar to me shitting myself in public and trying to call it a minor inconvenience,” he wrote. “It really doesn’t do the situation justice.”

Despite that, many of the platform’s top streamers have been quite casual about the situation.

“Hey, @twitch EXPLAIN?”xQc tweeted. Amouranth replied with a laughing emoji and the text, “This is our version of the Pandora papers.” 

Meanwhile, Pokimane tweeted, “at least people can’t over-exaggerate me ‘making millions a month off my viewers’ anymore.”

Others, such as Moistcr1tikal and HasanAbi argued that their Twitch earning are already public information given that they can be easily determined with simple calculations. 

Could More Data Come Out?

This may not be the end of the leak, which was labeled as “part one.” If true, there’s no reason to think that the leakers wouldn’t publish a part two. 

For example, they don’t seem to be too fond of Twitch and said they hope this data dump “foster[s] more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space.”

They added that the platform is a “disgusting toxic cesspool” and included the hashtag #DoBetterTwitch, which has been used in recent weeks to drive boycotts against the platform as smaller creators protest the ease at which trolls can use bots to spam their chats with racist, sexist, and homophobic messages.

Still, this leak does appear to lack one notable set of data: password and address information of Twitch users.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the leakers don’t have it. It could just mean they are only currently interested in sharing Twitch’s big secrets. 

Regardless, Twitch users and creators are being strongly urged to change their passwords as soon as possible and enable two-factor authentication.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Video Games Chronicle) (Kotaku)

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