YouTuber Ethan Ralph accused The Wall Street Journal of sabotaging a fundraiser he held in September to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
On September 29, the host of the popular YouTube show #Killstream utilized a new YouTube feature called “Super Chat” to fundraise for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. The show, said to focus largely on free speech absolutism and “drama, news, and politics,” raised a total of $26,000 for the charity to support children battling cancer, according to Ralph.
The Super Chat feature, introduced last year, allows users to pay for their comments to be specially featured during live streams. Paid comments get pinned to the top of the chat stream, which is often quickly updating with comments that may not be read otherwise. More money means more time at the top of the stream.
Ralph said he was contacted Wednesday evening, over a month after his #Healstream fundraising event, by WSJ reporter Yoree Koh. Koh allegedly informed him that she was working on a story “about how alt-right personalities have utilized YouTube’s Super Chat function,” and told Ralph that she would be “mentioning” instances of Ralph’s viewers attempting to promote anti-Semitic rhetoric through the Super Chat function on multiple of his past streams.
On Friday, Ralph reported that donors were receiving notification from YouTube that their donations from over a month prior had been refunded by St. Jude. Ralph asserted that the refunds were issued “due to pressure from The Wall Street Journal.” Though no article had yet been published, Ralph started the hashtag campaign #WSJKillsKids, noting the likely connection between the timing of article and refund of old donations.
YouTube originally responded to the reported comments by revoking Super Chat capabilities for Ralph’s channel and taking down individual episodes of the show, but later went further. The company confirmed Friday evening that they had permanently removed Ralph from the platform.
Koh’s original email to Ralph listed her deadline as 10 p.m. Thursday night, but the article was not published until late Friday evening. The published piece focused largely on Ralph and the events that unfolded after Koh contacted him, including returned donations and the removal of Ralph’s channel from YouTube. Koh reported that when she contacted St. Jude “earlier in the week,” she was informed that the organization “was aware of the chats and was making arrangements to reverse any donations.”
“We had no intention of receiving or accepting any of the funds associated with the live stream,” a St. Jude spokesperson told WSJ Friday.
In his Friday night live stream, which was hosted on an alternative website, Ralph said that he “didn’t believe” that St. Jude had plans to return the money before being contacted by WSJ.
“I think that we’ve been a thorn in the side of YouTube for quite some time,” Ralph told The Daily Caller. “Our show wasn’t really supposed to get as popular as it did, but we ended up regularly topping the live trending chart on the site even with all the obstacles they threw in our way.”
Ralph added that his show is “staunchly committed to freedom of speech and expression,” an idea he said YouTube and other social media sites “no longer care about.” Because of this, he said, “days are numbered” for people like him on these types of platforms.
Ralph said he believes his experience was a result of “direct collaboration between YouTube and The Wall Street Journal,” noting that the publication held the piece until after he had been banned from YouTube. He suspects that YouTube may have offered him up as a scapegoat, in order to keep the WSJ from digging any further into controversies surrounding the platform.
“YouTube does owe our show a lot of money from the month of October,” Ralph added. While he admits that taking legal action against the company would be difficult, he said “all options will have to remain on the table, even in the face of long odds” if YouTube decides to keep the funds.
Despite this controversy, Ralph said he is confident that his show will continue to be successful.
“We drew 6000 last night to a site no one had ever heard of before yesterday, DLive,” said Ralph, adding that with the amount of alternative streaming options available, he is looking at his departure from YouTube as a “major opportunity.”
Koh did not respond to request for comment.