YouTube Demonetizes Russell Brand: The Cost of Controversial Content
YouTube, the world’s leading video sharing platform, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has recently taken the step to “demonetize” Russell Brand. This decision comes in the wake of a four-year investigation by the Sunday Times and Channel 4 Dispatches into allegations of rape and sexual assault, which Brand denies. As a result, Brand will no longer benefit from the substantial ad revenue generated by his YouTube videos. With over six million followers on the platform, this move is undoubtedly a significant financial blow to Brand.
Brand’s Financial Dependence on YouTube
Up until this point, Brand has been able to generate substantial revenue from one of the world’s largest companies. It is worth noting that YouTube’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information” and provide accurate and useful content. However, many would argue that Brand’s videos did not uphold these ideals. His content often revolved around conspiratorial musings about topics such as Covid-19, vaccines, Bill Gates, and former US chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci. This type of content can contribute to polarization and political violence, yet YouTube continued to monetize it until the political cost became too high.
The Worth of Fringe Influencing
Fringe influencers like Brand can amass significant wealth through their online platforms. Alex Jones’s InfoWars, for example, was revealed in a recent lawsuit to have generated over $165 million in just three years. This demonstrates the lucrative nature of this type of content and the substantial revenue it can generate. Brand’s online brand, despite his diminishing mainstream appeal, is likely worth millions of dollars annually. With a team working to promote his content, he remains a force to be reckoned with in the online realm.
The Rise of Alternate Platforms
Brand’s ability to post new videos to his six million YouTube followers remains intact at the time of writing. However, he has strategically diversified his online presence, amassing 1.4 million followers on Rumble, a platform established as an alternative to YouTube for those banned by the platform. This allows Brand to continue growing his audience while still generating revenue from YouTube. By embracing his new pariah status, he can potentially attract more followers who perceive themselves as part of a marginalized group, rallying behind their idol.
Conspiracy Theories and Revenue Streams
In the online era, conspiratorial fanbases are a valuable asset, willing to financially support their preferred influencers while advancing their unusual causes. Brand’s coverage across right-wing and “free speech” communities on the internet will likely bring him thousands of new followers. This surge in popularity could open up numerous revenue streams for him. Paradoxically, the recent journalistic revelations surrounding the allegations against Brand could even serve to increase his income. It is a strange and often disconcerting reality in which we find ourselves.
YouTube’s Role in Creator Cult Followings
While no single company is entirely at fault, YouTube has come under scrutiny for its role in enabling creators, like Brand, to build cult-like followings. By waiting until controversy reaches its peak before taking action, YouTube indirectly supports the growth of these followings. In the process, the platform earns billions of dollars while acting as “the canceller” rather than being subject to cancellation itself.
In conclusion, the decision to demonetize Russell Brand by YouTube demonstrates the cost of controversial content. Despite losing ad revenue from YouTube, Brand’s online brand remains a financial powerhouse. By capitalizing on alternate platforms and the loyalty of conspiratorial fanbases, he can continue to attract followers and potentially generate even more revenue. This raises important questions about the role major companies like YouTube play in amplifying and monetizing controversial content.
James Ball is a journalist and author