YouTube's most popular content creator, Felix 'PewDiePie' Kjellberg, is under pressure after using a racist insult during a September 10 live-streamed video.
With 57 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, English-speaking Swede Felix Kjellberg is YouTube's top-ranked content creator, and has been since 2013.
In April of this year, Kjellberg branched out to livestreaming service Twitch, and a comment made during a September 10 live session has sparked a new round of controversy.
Playing the notoriously intense "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," the year's most popular new PC game, he used racially-loaded language to deride another player.
He and a friend, Brad "BradWOTO" Smith, came under fire from two other players. Kjellberg was able to nullify both opponents, but evasive tactics from the second meant Smith's character died before Kjellberg could revive him (youtu.be/_Ro_wpRKpTU.)
"What a f------ N-----," Kjellberg exclaimed, launching a stream of expletives. "Why would he do that?"
Following the outburst, conversation took a more subdued though typically jocular tone. "Racist PewDiePie confirmed," he reflected, in reference to an earlier 2017 controversy.
"I've been dodging questions left and right today and then I slip up," he said, exasperated. "Sometimes I forget that I'm livestreaming."
"He went out of his way to kill [Smith before certain elimination]," the online star explained at the end of the round. "I needed the worst word I could think of for it."
In January 2017, Kjellberg was scrutinized over videos that used Nazi or anti-semitic references for comedic effect.
YouTube and Disney cancelled partnerships, advertisers lobbied for greater control over ad placement, and revenues fell for content creators across the board.
Following the death of a counter-protestor at an August 12 far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he distanced himself from the shock-comedy trope.
"A bunch of white supremacists got together and do what white supremacists do," he said. "I want nothing to do with these people. If for some reason Nazis think it's funny that I'm making these jokes, I don't want to give them that."
Now, amid discussion following the September 10 livestream, one game studio called for the removal of PewDiePie's positive video about its game.
"We're filing a DMCA takedown of PewDiePie's Firewatch content and any future Campo Santo games," Sean Vanaman wrote on Twitter, casting Kjellberg as "a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry."
"I'm sure we've made money off of the 5.7M views that video has and that's something for us to think about," Vananman wrote, reasoning that a continued presence on PewDiePie's channel would otherwise imply endorsement.
The statement has prompted further discussion over the use of copyright infringement notices in such a manner.