Advertisers are distancing themselves from prominent YouTuber David Dobrik and his ensemble of fellow content creators who call themselves the Vlog Squad, following multiple allegations of misconduct against members.
Dobrik has not responded to a request for comment from The Washington Post.
Here’s what to know:
Who is David Dobrik?
The 24-year-old gained early fame on Vine, a now-defunct, short-form video app that is often seen as a spiritual precursor to TikTok. In 2015, he began vlogging on YouTube, where his comedic videos, which he makes with the Vlog Squad, brought him more than 18.7 million subscribers and earned him title “Gen Z’s Jimmy Fallon” by The Wall Street Journal and enough money to purchase a $9.5 million mansion.
The videos, which tend to be four minutes and twenty seconds long, usually feature the Vlog Squad pulling pranks in the Los Angeles area.
During the pandemic, Dobrik pivoted to podcasting and launched a photo-sharing app called Dispo, putting his videos on hiatus. Meanwhile, allegations against Dobrik and the Vlog Squad began surfacing.
What are the allegations?
The fallout began in earnest last week after an article on Insider by Kat Tenbarge that detailed various accusations of misconduct and exploitation against members of the Vlog Squad that allegedly took place during a video shoot – including an accusation of rape against one of Dobrik’s friends.
The woman who made the latter allegation also told it to The New York Times “and provided pictures, texts and video from the evening to corroborate her account,” the outlet reported.
These allegations come after a BuzzFeed article in late February reported that Vlog Squad member Seth Francois said he was sexually assaulted in one of Dobrik’s vlogs.
In the video, which published in June 2017 and was titled “HE THOUGHT HE WAS KISSING HER!! (SUPER CRINGEY),” Dobrik tricks Francois into kissing fellow YouTuber Jason Nash, though Francois thinks he’s kissing a woman.
“I honestly didn’t realize how much that situation affected me until the beginning of last year when covid happened,” Francois told BuzzFeed. “I remember sitting in my room in Atlanta and I was thinking to myself, That video was wrong. I just felt like that shouldn’t have happened to me.”
In addition, former member Nick Keswani, who has a rare form of dwarfism and is blind in his left eye, was a regular target of mockery in Dobrik’s videos. He appeared on the H3H3 podcast in February, saying, “I felt worthless being in those videos. I was like, Dude, why am I even like here? What’s the point in my existence? Because I was just treated like this punching bag.”
What’s been the result?
After the Insider piece published, several brands cut ties with Dobrik – DoorDash, Dollar Shave Club and EA Sports among them, according to The New York Times.
A Hello Fresh spokesperson told The Washington Post, “We are no longer working with David Dobrik or any member of the Vlog Squad and do not have any plans to work with them again in the future.”
Another sponsor, SeatGeek, said in a statement to The Post that it “is not currently working with David Dobrik or the Vlog Squad, nor do we have any future planned campaigns.”
Dobrik also announced that he would step down from the board of Dispo, “to not distract from the company’s growth,” according to a statement provided to The Information.
Spark Capital, an early investor in Dispo, announced that it was also cutting ties with the company.
How has Dobrik responded?
Dobrik addressed the allegations and directly apologized to Francois in a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday.
“I’m sorry to Seth,” he said, adding, “I missed the mark on that one.”
Although he did not directly address the Insider article, or the allegations therein, he spoke about the importance of consent – and said he had separated himself from some of his former crew.
“Consent is something that’s super, super important to me. Whether I’m shooting with a friend or shooting with a stranger, I always make sure that whatever the video I’m putting out, I have the approval from that person,” he said, adding that he will take down a video at the request of anyone featured in it. “There have also been moments where I’ve looked back on videos and realized that these don’t represent me anymore, and they’re hurtful to other people, and I don’t want them up because I’ve grown as a content creator and as a person.”
“I’ve been really disappointed by some of my friends and, for that reason, I’ve separated from a lot of them,” he said.
Watch David Dobrik addressing the situation here: