YouTube’s decision to demonetize British actor Russell Brand has outraged free speech advocates, leading many social media heavyweights to defect from the video streaming platform in favor of less restrictive alternatives.
“It’s scary when you see all the ways big tech and government can police our speech,” Jessie Friedman, 29, the alter ego behind Hi-Rez the Rapper, told The Epoch Times. “We are experiencing a societal [expletive] that is much bigger than what Russell Brand may or may not have done 20 years ago and strikes at the question over who we are going to be and how much control we are going to tolerate as artists and people,” Mr. Friedman said.
“There is a movement to Rumble because there is a lot of room for growth, and they don't police your speech,” he added.
Mr. Friedman, a resident of central Florida who had been rapping since the age of 13, said that he first began thinking about an off-ramp during COVID-19 when his anti-mandate music videos resulted in his channel being demonetized. The move by YouTube cost him financially.
“Artists don’t want to see their work controlled by these giant monopolies, so I decided to begin moving over to a place where I feel I can express myself,” said Mr. Friedman.
Mr. Friedman was hopeful that YouTube, which he has been a member of since 2010, would relax its speech restrictions with the end of the pandemic. But the move against Mr. Brand served notice that widespread content regulation persisted.
“Aren’t we supposed to be innocent until proven guilty?” said Mr. Friedman. “Apparently not in the case of Russell Brand.”
Other prominent social media influencers shared in Mr. Friedman’s outrage by what they perceived as an attack against Mr. Brand as well as a violation of free speech by a large corporate power.
'People Aren’t Going to Take It'The move to demonetize Mr. Brand—disallowing him to profit off of his videos through advertising—came amid recent allegations of sexual misconduct that his accusers claim occurred more than a decade ago. Mr. Brand has 6.64 million subscribers on his YouTube channel.
The flamboyant Hollywood star openly spoke of his alcohol and drug abuse and promiscuity in his comedy routines before reinventing himself as a popular wellness influencer, political commentator, and an outspoken challenger of corporate media.
Mr. Brand can continue to earn income from videos posted to the alternative video posting site, Rumble, where he has already accumulated 1.4 million followers.
Rumble began in 2013, but it wasn’t until around 2020 that the site became the rising and alternative site it is today, largely as a result of policies at larger platforms that pushed video creators and others off more traditional sites, like YouTube, with Rumble’s promise of more relaxed content moderation.
Although Mr. Friedman is moving his content and promotion to Rumble, he still posts on YouTube and hopes that the Google-owned company gets the message before it is too late.
“I hope YouTube starts getting the hint that people aren’t going to take it, or it's going to be the end of YouTube,” said Mr. Friedman. “And no one wants to see that.”