Influencers going too far

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Influencers in digital media are some of the most powerful voices in the world. Commonly associated with social media celebrities, prominent bloggers and advocates, they help companies gain the all-important likes, shares, and comments on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Influencers also have a tendency to push the envelope but two major influencers went too far this week and the Internet fought back.
Felix Kjellberg – alias ‘PewDiePie – is the most popular YouTube star on the planet. His videos have been viewed collectively more than 14 billion times. He has such a large audience that he became a social media influencer while also scoring lucrative advertising and business deals with YouTube and the Walt Disney Co.
That was; however, until this week when Kjellberg’s PewDiePie blog showed two South Asian men holding up a placard proclaiming ‘Death to all Jews.’ The pair danced and laughed while on a separate screen Kjellberg, who had reportedly paid the men to hold up the sign via freelance employment site Fiverr, feigned disbelief. “I’m not anti-Semitic or whatever it’s called,” he said as he watched. “It was a funny meme, and I didn’t think it would work.”
The Internet was absolutely outraged and following a major public backlash both YouTube and Disney ended their ties with Kjellberg.
Another major influencer that suffered for going too far this week was right-wing provocateur and self-proclaimed “free-speech fundamentalist” from London, Milo Yiannopoulos. Publisher Simon & Schuster announced Monday that it has cancelled the Breitbart editor’s book deal, following outrage over a recording that appeared to show Yiannopoulos endorsing sex between “younger boys” and older men.
The remarks were made during an Internet live stream and circulated via Twitter as an edited video. Prior to losing his book deal that was supposed to release this Summer Yiannopoulos was also uninvited to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference for which he was previously scheduled.
These influencers depend upon public support and when they choose to offend their fan base, they impact their entire brand. We enable influencers and give them platforms; PewDiePie, for instance, became famous for creating video game reviews. It says something when the public can turn an influencer into the one being influenced. Perhaps we may never sway their ideas and speech but certainly the public can affect the influencers’ income.
Regardless of their intentions, influencers play a dangerous game with their words and actions and should know not to gamble with their livelihood by going too far.