A Canadian-founded video platform which has found success among right-wing commentators says it will not be removing the ability for Russell Brand to monetize videos on their platform after receiving an inquiry on the subject from the U.K. government amid a wave of sexual assault allegations against the comic.
Rumble stated Wednesday in a post on the social media site X that the company’s CEO had received what they called an “extremely disturbing letter” from a British parliamentary committee asking if they would be preventing Brand’s content from being monetized while he is being investigated for sexual assault.
“We regard it as deeply inappropriate and dangerous that the UK Parliament would attempt to control who is allowed to speak on our platform or to earn a living from doing so,” Rumble stated.
The allegations were revealed this month in a Channel 4 television documentary and The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Brand has denied the allegations and has not been charged with any criminal offence.
In response, the BBC has removed some of Brand’s material from its streaming archive. Earlier this week, YouTube stated that monetization of Brand’s account, which has 6.6 million subscribers, has been suspended, saying he violated the company’s creator responsibility policy.
Dame Caroline Dineage, British MP and chair of Culture, Media and Sport Committee, outlined in the letter sent to Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski that the committee is looking into the broadcasters who employed Brand, such as the BBC and Channel 4, to examine if an abusive culture persists today.
“However, we also looking at his use of social media, including on Rumble where he issued his pre-emptive response to the accusations made against him by The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches,” she wrote in the letter, which was shared publicly by Rumble. “While we recognize that Rumble is not the creator of the content published by Mr. Brand, we are concerned that he may be able to profit from his content on the platform.”
She inquired if Brand is able to monetize his content, and then asked “whether Rumble intends to join YouTube in suspending Mr. Brand’s ability to earn money on the platform.”
Brand, who is a comedian, actor and social media influencer, has been accused of sexual assault by several women, whose allegations span a seven-year period during the peak of his career. However, in recent years Brand has largely disappeared from mainstream media but has built up a large following online with videos mixing wellness and conspiracy theories. On Rumble, Brand has 1.4 million followers.
In its response, Rumble stated that it “stands for very different values” than YouTube, and that they are interested in “defending a free internet,” questioning why the U.K. government is inquiring about a private company’s actions.
“While Rumble obviously deplores sexual assault, rape, and all serious crimes, and believes that both alleged victims and the accused are entitled to a full and serious investigation, it is vital to note that recent allegations against Russell Brand have nothing to do with content on Rumble platform,” the company stated.
“Although it may be politically and socially easier for Rumble to join a cancel culture mob, doing so would be a violation of our company’s values and mission.”
Dineage has sent similar letters to other leaders of social media websites and media outlets.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Tiktok’s Director of Government Relations, she asked if they could confirm if Brand was able to monetize his Tiktok posts, “including his videos relating to the serious accusations against him, and what the platform is doing to ensure that creators are not able to use the platform to undermine the welfare of victims of inappropriate and potentially illegal behaviour.”
Brand is facing an accusation of rape from one woman, while three others have accused him of sexual assault, including one women who said she was sexually assaulted during a relationship with him when she was 16. It was Brand’s new persona as a wellness influencer online that led some of the women to decide to speak up, according to media reports.
Since the four allegations were made public, London’s Metropolitan Police force said it has received a report of a separate sexual assault dating from 2003.
On social media, Pavlovski seemed to characterize Dineage’s letter as a specific threat against Rumble, stating that “attacks on Rumble are relentless, from all angles, and accelerating.”
With its headquarters in Toronto, Rumble has been around since 2013, starting out as a way to help people license viral videos and sell them to bigger broadcasters or tech companies. But it got its first big boost after the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In the wake of the attack, social media giants such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter began to crack down on far-right content which violated their terms or spread misinformation or conspiracy theories, such as false claims that the 2020 election had been rigged.
According to a 2022 CTV W5 investigation, far-right personalities and their supporters then flocked to Rumble, seeing it as a safe haven away from censorship. In December 2020, a month before the insurrection, the site had roughly 1.5 million monthly viewers. But a year later, it boasted 31 million monthly viewers.
Pavlovski has characterized the site as a neutral place for open debate, but the company has previously aligned itself closely with right-wing personalities and politicians. Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social, joined Rumble’s ad platform in 2022 as its first publisher. When podcast host Joe Rogan was under fire in early 2022 for using racial slurs and spreading COVID-19 misinformation on his podcast, Pavlovski publically offered to match Joe Rogan’s US$100 million Spotify deal if he brought all of his shows to Rumble “with no censorship.”
When Brand denied the allegations of sexual assault, he suggested that there could be “another agenda at play.” Brand has faced criticism for spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and interviewing figures like Rogan.
With files from the Associated Press