LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - YouTube and Walt Disney Co have cut their ties with influential Swedish social media star PewDiePie after he posted a series of videos deemed anti-Semitic.
YouTube said it had canceled the second season of the comedian’s reality show, “Scare PewDiePie,” and taken his channel, which has some 53 million followers, off its premium advertising service.
“We’ve decided to cancel the release of ‘Scare PewDiePie’ season 2 and we’re removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred,” a YouTube representative told Hollywood trade publication Variety on Tuesday.
Disney’s Maker Studios unit, which owns the channel, told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that it was severing its ties with PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, after an investigation by the newspaper turned up nine videos featuring Nazi imagery or anti-Semitic jokes.
“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case, and the resulting videos are inappropriate,” a Maker Studios spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.
PewDiePie was among the most followed stars on YouTube, and his videos have been watched collectively more 14 billion times, according to the website. In 2016, he was on Time’s magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
In a recent stunt, he paid two people in India to hold up a sign that read “death to all Jews” and then responded to it with criticism while terming it a joke.
Kjellberg, 27, defended his content in a Tumblr posting over the weekend, saying he did not endorse hate-based groups.
“I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary,” he said. “I know my audience understand that, and that is why they come to my channel.
“Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn