Last Friday afternoon, Felix Kjellberg, the Swedish YouTuber better known as PewDiePie, uploaded a video to his massively popular channel and boasts 49.7 million subscribers. In the video, which has been viewed more than 11 million times at publication, he explains that he plans to delete his account once he’s racked up 50 million subscribers because he thinks YouTube gives preferential treatment to videos that don’t deserve it.
Kjellberg, who made $7.4 million in 2014 thanks to videos like the “Electrify My Butt Challenge,” made the questionable argument that YouTube was discriminating against him by suggesting that YouTube users watch videos that were not made by him and, in some instances, were made women and people of color.
“Sorry Zoella, but I don’t care what’s in your bag, okay?” Kjellberg said, referring to fashion and style YouTuber Zoe Sugg. “Your subscribers do, I’m sure, but keep that shit away from me.”
“I don’t care what’s in your bag, okay? Your subscribers do, I’m sure, but keep that shit away from me.”- PewDiePie
Kjellberg’s grievances focus on YouTube’s algorithm that suggests new videos to users. According to Kjellberg, YouTube’s become more aggressive in sourcing “clickbait” outside of a person’s traditional viewing habits and refuses to explain the changes to the algorithm.
“Top 5 videos, or top 10 videos, these fucking retarded-ass videos,” Kjellberg said. “Videos that have nothing to do with personality, [have] nothing to do with content and just have a really great title and a really great thumbnail.”
Kjellberg is right that videos of people listing their favorite things are some of the most common and popular forms of content on YouTube that don’t require as much overhead to produce, yet are able to draw massive audiences that generate revenue for their creators. But later in the video he veers into conspiracy theory territory.
“YouTube wants my channel gone. They want someone else on top,” Kjellberg says. “Someone really extremely cancerous, like Lilly Singh. I’m white. Can I make that comment? But I do think that’s a problem.”
This afternoon, Kjellberg tweeted and then quickly deleted an explanation for the video saying that he was merely being “sarcastic,” though did not specify where, exactly, the sarcasm had been.
At first glance, it’s difficult to pinpoint Kjellberg’s beef with Singh. Kjellberg is a 27-year-old former economics student who dropped out university to focus on making frenetic video game commentary videos. Singh’s YouTube presence consists mostly of comedic videos about dating, her parents, and music.
While both of the personalities were ranked as some of the top ten highest-paid YouTubers of 2015, you wouldn’t think Kjellberg would consider Singh the competition given the drastic difference in their brands.
And yet, last year Singh became the face of a massive YouTube ad campaign that plastered a number of characters from her videos across the country on billboards, subway ads, and the sides of busses in an effort to attract more viewers to channels like hers. The campaign came at a time which a growing number of people called YouTube for disproportionately featuring the work of white YouTubers while ignoring the many creators of color who’ve helped turn the platform into the juggernaut that it is today.
“I’m not stupid, I know racism exists, I deal with it in small ways all the time,” Singh told Makers last year. “In my brain, the best way for me to fight racism is to be as successful as I can be. Yes I’m on a billboard, why shouldn’t I be?”
Kjellberg’s threat to delete his content is likely just an attempt to stir up some drama in hopes of boosting his own numbers. But implying that YouTube’s treating him unfairly because he’s a white man is not only sore-loserism—it’s also deeply ironic considering the platform’s questionable history.
As for Singh, she hasn’t responded publicly to Kjellberg’s comments as off yet, but a number of her fans have been passing around a tweet she sent to him in July of last year: