YouTube is being widely criticized for its decision to strip comedian Russell Brand of the right to earn money via advertising on his popular channel after a string of women went public with disturbing allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Brand is accused of attacking four women who told their stories anonymously to Channel 4‘s Dispatches and The Times.
Brand insists he is innocent and the victim of an attack by the ‘mainstream media’ – a claim which many of his supporters are embracing.
Despite the shocking nature of the allegations that include having an abusive relationship with a 16-year-old girl when he was 31, he has not been arrested, nor charged with any crime.
The Metropolitan Police in London is investigating a separate allegation against Brand relating to a 2003 incident, but says it has not received any reports relating to the allegations in either the documentary or newspaper report.
Brand has, in the meantime, been crucified and martyred in the court of public opinion.
Yesterday, YouTube announced that while he is allowed to stay on the platform, it will no longer allow him to make money from his channel.
‘If a creator’s off-platform behavior harms our users, employees or ecosystem, we take action to protect the community,’ the streaming site said. The BBC has also removed Brand’s shows from its iPlayer and BBC Sounds.
That decision is now being blasted – not only by Brand’s own fans – but others who say it’s premature given Brand’s own denial and a lack of due process amid overwhelming public interest and opinion.
Among them is Piers Morgan, who said last night on his Talk TV show: ‘As far as we all know at the moment, they are accusations, albeit very serious ones that were done in extremely well researched in investigative journalism.
‘There is something slightly Orwellian about a business that says it will still host his videos, keeping millions of eyeballs on their platform, but won’t share any of the spoils.
‘It’s perilous in a free, democratic society, for any powerful business to appoint itself judge jury and perhaps premature executioner.’
Morgan holds the same level of criticism for fans of Brand or naysayers who have rushed to the assumption he is the victim of a mainstream media witch-hunt.
‘The way the story is playing out online is evidence of a slightly bigger problem which us tribalism. Millions of people have raced to RB’s defense without even reading the heinous claims against him.
‘They think it’s a conspiracy by the mainstream media to crush a man who got too close to the truth. I think that’s rubbish personally.
‘Millions more have convicted him based on their opinions, forcing companies to end his career before he’s had any due process. I think they are wrong to race to conviction-point too.’
Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson slammed the decision by YouTube as ‘appalling’.
‘Whatever your views on the Russell Brand scandal – and there are four serious allegations of rape, assault and “emotional abuse” against him, the decision by YouTube where he has 6.5 million subscribers is just appalling. Chilling, actually.
‘Not only does this Orwellian unpersonning of Russell Brand violate a fundamental tenet of a free society – these are still only allegations remember – it makes the prospect of a fair trial, should he ever be charged, unlikely.