Many college students may be familiar with YouTube star David Dobrik, known for his comedy, his wild friend group known as the “Vlog Squad” and his habit of giving away Teslas to his friends. Recently, multiple individuals have come forward about harassment they claim to have endured during their interactions with Dobrik and the Squad. The allegations have gone from complaints of bullying to claims of sexual assault. Meanwhile, Dobrik and his friends continue to tiptoe around the issue. It’s time that they genuinely apologize to their young audience who are influenced by their actions.
Recently, YouTubers Ethan Klein and Trisha Paytas began discussing the cultish nature of the Vlog Squad — of which Dobrik is the key figure and “leader” — in their podcast “Frenemies.” In these podcasts, Paytas revealed her often troubling encounters with Dobrik and the squad. She spoke about one instance where Dobrik hid in the shower while Paytas and her boyfriend were intimate in the room over. Dobrik jumped out to scare her while she was unclothed. This encounter was uploaded to Dobrik’s channel, despite Paytas claiming that she told him it made her uncomfortable. Later, “Frenemies” featured the video and old audio from Dobrik’s podcast where he speaks about the fact that Paytas was unaware of his presence in the shower. Still, Dobrik has not addressed this issue.
Another YouTuber named Big Nik came forward on “Frenemies” to talk about the bullying he faced while associating with Dobrik and the Squad, including incessant harassment about his dwarfism. At his lowest, he says, he became suicidal. He talks about how when he approached Dobrik about his discomfort with the situation, he was excommunicated from the group and was no longer featured in Dobrik’s videos. Once again, Dobrik refuses to speak out about this issue.
Perhaps most disturbingly, Dobrik and his crew participated in what their friend and former associate of the Vlog Squad, Seth Francois, has called a sexual assault. Francois bravely agreed to be interviewed on Ethan Klein’s Podcast, where he recounted the situation. Dobrik employed Jason Nash, another Vlog Squad member who’s almost 50 years old, to wear an old man Halloween mask. Then, Dobrik deceived Francois, telling him that Corinna, a young woman, was under the mask and that they should make out. Published to Dobrik’s channel (now unlisted) was the disconcerting video of Francois being tricked into making out with Jason Nash. Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that Dobrik managed to pull this same prank twice on Francois, months apart.
Francois said the encounter was so traumatizing that he had to move states and that he constantly struggles with the fact that much of the internet remembers him from this “prank,” which was his assault. Further, the podcast presents audio recordings of Dobrik and Nash gushing about the “hilarious” nonconsensual and deceptive nature of the situation in grave detail, with Dobrik even saying “I got what I wanted,” and Jason saying “Homosexuality is not so accepted where he (Francois) comes from,” verifying that they were aware that people in Francois’ hometown weren’t accepting of gay relationships.
March 16, Dobrik uploaded a two-and-a-half-minute video titled “Let’s Talk,” in which he ironically disabled all of the comments. In this video, he spends 10 seconds apologizing to Francois while never admitting his actions were perpetrated without consent. He also never mentions any of the other people he hurt. As expected, he’s receiving backlash over such an insincere “apology” that he seemingly uploaded in an attempt to save face, and it's obvious that a more substantive apology is needed from both Dobrik and the Squad. Allegations of bullying and sexual misconduct cannot be spoken for in two minutes to an audience of almost two million.
The fact that Dobrik and his fellow Squad members have yet to thoroughly address these allegations is disturbing. Dobrik is profiting over $300,000 per video, according to Nox Influencer, and his content appeals to a younger audience. Considering this, the fact that he’s ignoring these situations and is continuing to profit from them is suggesting to his impressionable audience that he condones his actions. Further, Ethan Klein showed how Dobrik has banned words like “kissing” and “assault” from being commented on his videos in light of the media attention about the issue. Once again, in engaging in such censoring, he’s chosen to stand by what he’s done and is normalizing assault.
However, Dobrik isn’t the only one responsible for these acts. While he may have facilitated many disturbing situations, his Vlog Squad members also participated. One member, Scotty Sire, uploaded a video attempting to defend Dobrik by revealing that Francois texted Dobrik that he’d be willing to engage in the prank a third time. This video, now deleted from Scotty’s channel, received major backlash for victim-shaming, and it glossed over the incriminating audio of Dobrik admitting to the first nonconsensual “prank” against Francois. Another former Vlog Squad member known as “Durte Dom” came forward with a video apologizing for the bullying against Big Nik and serving as an eye-witness to Francois’ assault, saying, “Seth had no idea [that he was about to be deceived]. I was there.” Dobrik and his crew need to more seriously address these allegations.
Perhaps Dobrik is already seeing the consequences of his actions. For instance, Dobrik has already lost sponsorships with brands like Hello Fresh and DoorDash, according to BuzzFeed, but this development has only come in the wake of further assault allegations against Dom. Insider also published a revealing article that details a young woman coming forward to reveal her assault by Dom that she says was facilitated by Dobrik and the crew and uploaded to his channel. It’s time that the group comes forward and genuinely admit to their faults, even though it might be too late for some of Dobrik’s ex-fans to jump back on the bandwagon.
Josie Haneklau is a junior political science and psychology major. Contact Josie at firstname.lastname@example.org.