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Why did YouTube spotlight a scammer and an accused abuser at its latest event?

In its effort to remain family-friendly and woo advertisers, YouTube has often struggled to please its vast, diverse community of creators. It seems that the brand’s first-ever “Made on YouTube” event, held this morning, was an attempt to strengthen that relationship by showing creators how much YouTube cares about their work and revenue streams. Unfortunately, the event proved that they still have a ways to go.

The event opened with a montage of popular creators making their first YouTube videos, reaching subscriber milestones, and saying nice things about all the opportunities YouTube has given them.

It featured all the usual suspects — squeaky-clean YouTube corporate favorites Mark Rober, Marques Brownlee, Simone Giertz, and Binging with Babish, artists Dua Lipa, Lizzo, and Conan Grey, the platform’s highest-earning creator MrBeast, and streamers TommyInnit, Dream, and Valkyrae. But two very surprising faces were also included: the ACE Family’s Austin McBroom and comedian Gus Johnson.

It’s hard to explain just how incredibly odd and wildly out of touch these choices are, because they both represent parts of the platform YouTube would rather pretend didn’t exist.

A screenshot of a clip of Austin McBroom used during the Made on YouTube event. The cut is from an ACE Family video titled “2 MILLION ACE FAMILY MEMBERS!!!” posted in 2017. McBroom stares at a large television screen waiting for the channel’s subscriber count to hit two million.
Credit: YouTube / The ACE Family
A screenshot of a Gus Johnson video. Johnson appears to be sitting, as you can only see him from the chest up. He is wearing a while baseball hat and a red shirt in front of a trellis of green plants behind him.

A screenshot of a clip of Gus Johnson used during the Made on YouTube event. The cut is from a video posted in 2021 titled “thank you for 3 million! (Q&A too)” and Johnson is heard saying “That blows my mind, so thank you!”
Credit: YouTube/ Gus Johnson

The ACE Family is notorious for a series of failed business ventures and scammy sales practices, and they’ve been loudly called out by the YouTube community since at least 2018. They’re so well-known on the platform that anyone who has paid even a skosh of attention to YouTube in the past few years would be aware of their poor reputation.

But, let’s say you aren’t on YouTube a whole lot. Simply Googling “the ACE family” brings up featured snippets with the questions like “what is the ACE Family controversy?” and “how much debt is the ACE Family in?” Just below that is a report from Insider on the family’s shady business dealings.

A screenshot of the Google search results page for the ACE family, which includes a snippet asking "What is the ACE Family controversy?" and "How much debt is the ACE Family in?"
Googling “the ACE family” brings up featured snippet with the questions “What is the ACE family controversy?” and “How much debt is the ACE Family in?”
Credit: Google

Gus Johnson, meanwhile, was a popular creator until late last year when his ex-girlfriend Abelina Rios accused him of emotional abuse and neglect as she struggled with an ectopic pregnancy that almost killed her. Rios had been part of content on Johnson’s channel between 2018 and 2020, and their videos together are still up on the channel. As Newsweek recapped, Johnson made an apology for his behavior, which Rios did not accept.

Johnson’s channel has since taken a significant hit in subscriber count and viewership after Rio’s went public with her side of the story. He’s lost more than 350,000 subscribers since Rio’s video was published. That makes it even weirder that YouTube highlighted him in a celebratory medley of creators.

A screenshot of two graphs from socialblade: Johnson's weekly subscribers and view counts gains. Both dip in October 2021, after Rio's video is published.
Johnson’s weekly subscribers and view counts gains, which dipped after his ex-girlfriend shared her story of emotional abuse in October 2021..
Credit: Socialblade

So, what the hell happened here?

It’s no secret that YouTube is fighting a constant battle against its ignorance of its own platform. But to show their cards at this event, in particular, is embarrassing. It’d be one thing to feed McBroom and Johnson to advertisers who are more interested in a creator’s shiny facade than the intricacies of their reputation in the YouTube community. But it’s another thing entirely to highlight McBroom and Johnson at an event for creators, held specifically to convince creators that you understand them.

The choice proves just how out of touch YouTube remains when it comes to the issues in their community, and why an event like “Made on YouTube” might still fall flat for the very creators it’s meant to serve.

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