Additionally, in response to PewDiePie’s rec of the E;R channel, its owner described PewDiePie as producing “redpilled content.” And it’s easy to see why. Before declaring in 2017 that he would stop making Nazi jokes, PewDiePie made a whole lot of Nazi jokes. Even since then, he’s produced a long line of “satirical” videos and commentary that his alt-right followers have praised as examples of his “dropping redpills” on the rest of his fans.
Libya blocked access on January 24, 2010, because of videos that featured demonstrations in the city of Benghazi by families of detainees who were killed in Abu Salim prison in 1996, and videos of family members of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at parties. The blocking was criticized by Human Rights Watch. In November 2011, after the Libyan Civil War, YouTube was once again allowed in Libya.
As Grayson notes, PewDiePie’s endorsement of the E;R channel continues a long trend of the vlogger using his influence to normalize white supremacist alt-right rhetoric to an alarming — and, on YouTube, increasingly widespread — degree. In 2016 and 2017, PewDiePie faced intense backlash for multiple instances in which he promoted Nazi symbolism and anti-Semitism, including a video in which he threw a Nazi “heil” salute, and one in which he hired a pair of performers from a freelancer website to hold up a sign reading “Death to all Jews,” ostensibly as a satirical exercise. He followed that so-called stunt with a video where he used a racist slur during a gaming live stream.
The 1990s and 2000s saw the growth of cable TV channels targeted at children. With the rise of ubiquitous merchandising deals and niche content, powerful American media companies such as Disney, Turner, and Viacom figured out how to make money off young kids. They created, respectively, the Disney Channel, the Cartoon Network, and, of course, Nickelodeon, which was the most watched cable channel during traditional television’s peak year, 2009–10 (Nielsen’s measurement period starts and ends in September). Since then, however, little kids have watched less and less television; as of last spring, ratings in 2018 were down a full 20 percent from just last year. As analysts like to put it, the industry is in free fall. The cause is obvious: More and more kids are watching videos online.
In March 2010, YouTube began free streaming of certain content, including 60 cricket matches of the Indian Premier League. According to YouTube, this was the first worldwide free online broadcast of a major sporting event. On March 31, 2010, the YouTube website launched a new design, with the aim of simplifying the interface and increasing the time users spend on the site. Google product manager Shiva Rajaraman commented: "We really felt like we needed to step back and remove the clutter." In May 2010, YouTube videos were watched more than two billion times per day. This increased to three billion in May 2011, and four billion in January 2012. In February 2017, one billion hours of YouTube was watched every day.
That kind of growth suggests that something unpredictable and wild is happening: America’s grip on children’s entertainment is coming to an end. ChuChu is but the largest of a new constellation of children’s-media brands on YouTube that is spread out across the world: Little Baby Bum in London, Animaccord Studios in Moscow, Videogyan in Bangalore, Billion Surprise Toys in Dubai, TuTiTu TV in Tel Aviv, and LooLoo Kids in Iași, a Romanian town near the country’s border with Moldova. The new children’s media look nothing like what we adults would have expected. They are exuberant, cheap, weird, and multicultural. YouTube’s content for young kids—what I think of as Toddler YouTube—is a mishmash, a bricolage, a trash fire, an explosion of creativity. It’s a largely unregulated, data-driven grab for toddlers’ attention, and, as we’ve seen with the rest of social media, its ramifications may be deeper and wider than you’d initially think.
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