One of the most popular figures on YouTube was forced to apologize after it was revealed that one of his regular collaborators had been accused of rape, and that Dobrik himself had turned the incident into a now-deleted video about ‘group sex.’
An extensive report from Insider journalist Kat Tenbarge alleged that a woman featured on Dobrik’s YouTube channel said she was raped by Vlog Squad member, Dominykas Zeglaitis, aka Durte Dom, in 2018. She says that, on the night, she was plied with alcohol despite being under the legal drinking age. This particular detail was highlighted in an episode of the podcast Frenemies, hosted by Ethan Klein and former Dobrik collaborator Trisha Paytas. The pair interviewed former Dobrik associate Jeff Wittek, who Paytas had accused of being the one who ‘went to go buy liquor for the party after she told [vlogger Jason] Nash, her boyfriend at the time, not to.’ Wittek denied this claim in his own video, although he also later admitted that he hadn’t read the Insider piece so he didn’t know the full details of what was alleged. During the Frenemies interview, Klein and Paytas asked Wittek about a photograph wherein he, Dobrik, and the accuser, who was seemingly intoxicated and being held up by others, were together on the night of the alleged assault. Wittek claims he left before the alleged incident took place, although Klein noted that the timestamp on the image refuted that.
Allegations of sexual misconduct surrounding Dobrik and his associates have become shockingly common. One of his former collaborators, Seth Francois, alleges that he was tricked into kissing someone on camera, an incident he describes as having been traumatic. That moment, he says, led to him calling a sexual assault hotline for advice. Francois, who also noted that he frequently felt pressurized into participating in culturally insensitive videos as the only Black member of Dobrik’s circle, further alleged that he was offered money to keep the video online.
David Dobrik is one of the true megastars of YouTube. The 24-year-old vlogger first found success on Vine before jumping to a new platform in 2015. Since then, he has accumulated over 18 million subscribers and 8 billion views. The Wall Street Journal called him the Jimmy Fallon of Gen Z. He’s made the jump to traditional media with work on Nickelodeon, the Discovery Channel, and films like The Angry Birds Movie 2. Chipotle named a burrito after him. EA Sports gifted him a Lamborghini. He is, to put it mildly, a big deal, one of the faces the platform likes to point to as a positive example of what YouTube can bring to the world. As major YouTubers faced backlash, political controversies, and their own disturbing allegations, Dobrik was often held up as One of the Good Guys.
What made Dobrik’s work so wildly famous was its mixture of classic sitcom formula and modern-day vlog spontaneity. The Verge called his format ‘like Friends, but for vloggers.’ At the heart of this set-up is Dobrik’s rotating cast of ‘friends’ known as The Blog Squad. Essentially, Dobrik and other vloggers work together, starring in one another’s videos, and collaborating on bigger projects. Dobrik positions himself as the chaotic boy next door and audience avatar for this ragtag ensemble. The hook is a mixture of relatability — look, you too can be part of the squad! — and ludicrous luxury — seriously, a company gifted this guy a Lamborghini! It’s been highly profitable for Dobrik. Last year, he was estimated to be the ninth highest-earning person on the site, with a cool $16 million to his name.
Now, following these allegations, Dobrik is shedding brand endorsement deals. Hello Fresh, General Mills, EA Sports, DoorDash, Dollar Shave Club and Audible have all dropped him. Angel City Football Club also dropped him as an owner of the team. His own app, the image-sharing platform Dispo, announced that he was stepping down from the board ‘so as not to distract from the company’s growth.’ Seven Seven Six, the venture-capital firm run by former Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, also distanced itself from both Dobrik and Dispo. According to the statement, Seven Seven Six has ‘made the decision to donate any profits from our investment in Dispo to an organization working with survivors of sexual assault.’
Dobrik’s apologies for this entire mess have been widely panned by his audience and critics alike. He dropped a new apology video today, seven minutes in length and humbler in tone than one from the previous week. In the new video, Dobrik said:
I want to start this video by saying I fully believe the woman who came out against Dom and said she was sexually assaulted and raped by him.
What I understand now and I didn’t understand before is that she sent that text because she felt she had to, not that she wanted to and that’s f—ked up and I’m sorry.’
Dobrik also said that he plans to take a serious break from social media and to establish a greater professional structure of checks and balances so that he can ‘use this opportunity to step up and own my mistakes.’ All in all, it’s a very YouTube apology.
There’s been a lot of very rational questioning over why Dobrik seems to be facing a louder and more fervent pushback than Dominykas Zeglaitis, the man accused of rape (he, for the record, declined to comment on the Insider investigation.) Dobrik himself has not been accused of sexual assault. Still, there’s a reason why he’s become the face of the problem. Dobrik, like many on YouTube, has spent years thriving personally and professionally with a total lack of accountability. YouTube doesn’t really care about cracking down on misconduct or damaging behavior for its above-the-line celebrities who bring in the most revenue. PewDiePie is the perfect example of that. It’s one of the reasons why it was so truly shocking that they chose to briefly demonetize Shane Dawson’s channel. The idea of an independent creator who has been elevated to mainstream star having to face the consequences of his actions feels near fantastical these days. As we’ve said before, so-called cancel culture doesn’t exist for people with enough money and power in their corner.
Dobrik’s entire creative model also highlights a major problem with this new era of online fame. The Vlog Squad is a wholly professional enterprise but none of the people involved with it are Dobrik’s employees. They’re ‘friends.’ They don’t get an HR department, and it seems clear that going to Dobrik himself with concerns about the environment he fostered on-set did not result in necessary changes. Dobrik has been doing this since his teens, and many of his collaborators are also very young (and aiming to please a young audience.) Couple that with how much of Dobrik’s professional clout has been strengthened with ‘pranks’ and it feels dishearteningly inevitable that and things will happen. This is the way YouTube wants it to be. It’s much easier to deny the active role one plays in fostering for-profit cruelty that way.
It remains to be seen if this direct hit to Dobrik’s bottom line will instigate any real change for one of YouTube’s biggest channels. By the time you get to his level of subscriber numbers, it’s depressingly easy to ride out controversy. The loss of brand sponsorships will hit more than the YouTube number decrease, but big business shares a fishbowl memory with the internet. Check out Jeffree Star, PewDiePie, and the Fine Brothers for examples of channels hit hard by controversy of varying levels of seriousness who bounced back in no time. Ultimately, Dobrik’s career doesn’t matter here, not when a woman has alleged rape and exposed the rot at the heart of a culture that thrived on zero accountability in the name of relatability.
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