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.
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, earned him more than 18.7 million subscribers and earned him the 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 around Los Angeles.
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, following a piece 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 that last allegation also told it to the New York Times “and provided pictures, texts and video from the evening to corroborate her account,” it reported.
These allegations come after a piece BuzzFeed published in late February in which former Vlog Squad member Joseth “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 suffers from 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 H3 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 has been the fallout?
After the Insider piece published, several brands cut ties with Dobrik — DoorDash, Dollar Shave Club and EA Sports among them, according to the 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.
“In light of recent news about the Vlog Squad and David Dobrik, the cofounder of Dispo, we have made the decision to sever all ties with the company,” the company wrote on Twitter. “We have stepped down from our position on the board and we are in the process of making arrangements to ensure we do not profit from our recent investment in Dispo.”
How has Dobrik responded?
Dobrik addressed the allegations and directly apologized to Francois in a 2½-minute video posted to YouTube on Tuesday.