HomeNewsHe was canceled during the #MeToo movement. Now, he’s using YouTube to...

He was canceled during the #MeToo movement. Now, he’s using YouTube to attack celebrity accusers.

For Andy Signore, the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial was a gold mine. 

Beginning in April and spanning only a few months, Signore, 43, greater than doubled the next of his YouTube channel, the place he feedback on information and popular culture. He has made greater than 300 movies in regards to the trial and its individuals, bringing in tens of millions of views and 1000’s of {dollars} in contributions from followers. 

It’s a very spectacular run contemplating that not way back the YouTube-focused firm Signore based, Display Junkies, mentioned it had fired him, citing a wide range of sexual misconduct allegations. Signore has denied the allegations.

However the reputational hit additionally set the stage for his comeback.

Signore has capitalized on the allegations towards him, rising as certainly one of many widespread creators on YouTube making news-focused content material filtered by a tradition warfare lens. It has change into a profitable endeavor due to a shift in how creators earn cash on YouTube, the place donations now move from an viewers skeptical of the #MeToo motion.

Signore’s new channel, “Popcorned Planet,” now has greater than 675,000 subscribers who watch his movies and livestreams about “every day information” and “popular culture justice.” Signore covers what he characterizes because the injustice of the #MeToo motion and the criticism he and different males who’ve been accused of assorted types of sexual misconduct have confronted up to now 5 years. It’s a shift that different creators have made, as properly, capitalizing on the broader pushback towards social justice actions. A few of Signore’s newer content material takes intention on the individuals he mentioned contributed to the allegations towards him and their aftermath.

Signore has additionally cultivated a fan base that features individuals who determine as survivors of sexual assault and home violence who don’t imagine Heard’s allegations towards Depp — a few of them have donated to Signore, noting their histories of getting been abused in feedback. 

However Signore’s current success has been troublesome for a few of the individuals who labored with him at Display Junkies or who’ve appeared on YouTube with him and see him as profiting off his personal alleged misbehavior.

“He makes cash off victims and says he’s one,” mentioned Rei, who has appeared in livestreams on YouTube with Signore and who requested that her final title be withheld to guard her privateness. “Folks blindly imagine him.”

On Nov. 13, Rei hosted a livestream on her channel that included a brand new accusation — that Signore despatched an unsolicited nude video of himself masturbating to a lady in November 2021. 

In response to a collection of emailed questions, Signore mentioned NBC Information was “sensationalizing a non-public relationship between consenting adults.” He didn’t present particular responses to different questions on his YouTube operations.

Signore’s evolution displays an ongoing pushback towards the #MeToo motion, in addition to the shifting economics on YouTube, which mixed with the eye across the Depp-Heard trial to raise Signore and different creators to new heights. A Pew Analysis Heart examine final 12 months discovered that folks ages 18 to 49 have been way more prone to say they often consumed information by social media than individuals ages 50 and up, with YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok all among the many hottest platforms. 

On these platforms, a brand new crop of social media commentators like Signore has emerged, usually placing explicit spins or slants on the subjects they select to cowl. And people subjects usually are likely to skew towards tradition warfare points, notably after they function main celebrities, whereas echoing a rising mistrust of mainstream media. 

“There’s this bizarre type of inversion that has been taking place the place particular person individuals appear extra reliable than the ‘system,’” mentioned Emily Dreyfuss, a senior editor and fellow on the Expertise and Social Change Challenge at Harvard College’s Shorenstein Heart.

The Depp-Heard trial proved a pivotal level for these creators. Alongside Signore, many others, together with creators with authorized backgrounds who offered authorized commentary, bought ranges of consideration they hadn’t seen earlier than on their YouTube channels. 

Matt Jarbo, a full-time YouTube creator, mentioned the origins of Signore’s and related creators’ new model of content material traces to round 2017 and the so-called YouTube “Adpocalypse.” In response to advertisers’ considerations about adverts showing on racist and antisemitic movies, YouTube gave advertisers extra instruments to restrict which creators may earn cash from their adverts, together with permitting advertisers to decide out of adverts on content material about “tragedy and battle” or “delicate social points.” The restructuring of YouTube’s advertiser instruments reined in income for a lot of small creators, together with these whose content material wasn’t racist or antisemitic within the first place.

At across the similar time, YouTube launched Tremendous Chats, a tipping possibility inside the platform’s chat rooms for viewers to pay creators straight throughout livestreams. That pushed Jarbo and different creators in a brand new course, interesting on to already polarized audiences for suggestions, he mentioned.

“That made everyone go: ‘How can I change into extra hyperbolic after I stream? How can I earn more money that manner?’” Jarbo mentioned. “It’s been a nightmare ever since.”

Jarbo mentioned he and different creators pivoted to reactionary content material that fell into an “anti-SJW,” or anti-“social justice warrior,” class. Jarbo mentioned he has mirrored on and now regrets a few of the content material he created.

The identical 12 months, Display Junkies, the viral YouTube media firm Signore created, mentioned that it had fired him, citing “egregious and insupportable” conduct after a number of individuals got here ahead on social media claiming that Signore made undesirable romantic and sexual advances towards them. Some individuals accused Signore of messaging them as followers, then asking them for attractive pictures or to fulfill up in particular person. 

An individual who accused Signore of sexual harassment mentioned they have been working unpaid for Signore when he instructed them he had masturbated to their pictures and requested whether or not he may masturbate to them in particular person. The accuser identifies as gender non-binary and makes use of they and them pronouns.

A girl who accused him of sexual misconduct mentioned he tried to pressure her to make use of intercourse toys with him throughout intercourse, took pictures of her with out her consent and provided her a place at Display Junkies in alternate for sexual favors. After he was fired, Signore acknowledged that he had “flirted with followers” and cheated on his ex-wife, however he denied different allegations, together with the allegation of sexual harassment and the allegation of sexual misconduct. 

It was, on the time, a precipitous fall for an individual who had discovered success throughout an early and profitable period of YouTube. In 2007, Signore accepted a Golden Popcorn statue for finest film spoof onstage on the MTV Film Awards. In 2016, he labored with Ryan Reynolds on a “Deadpool” parody for “Sincere Trailers,” the flagship collection of Display Junkies. Weeks earlier than the corporate mentioned he was fired, CNBC reported that Signore had introduced in tens of millions of {dollars} by lovingly poking enjoyable at Hollywood.

Andy Signore accepts one of the best film spoof award for “United 300” on the 2007 MTV Film Awards. Christopher Polk / FilmMagic

Jarbo mentioned he and Signore met round late 2018 by a mutual buddy in a casual neighborhood of creators who’ve all confronted backlash. Jarbo, who mentioned a few of his personal controversies stem from his involvement in Gamergate — a historic harassment marketing campaign towards girls on-line — mentioned Signore began “assembly different canceled individuals” as he rebuilt his YouTube profession.   

“He was doing a rebound press tour, saying, ‘I didn’t assault this girl, right here’s the proof of that,’” Jarbo mentioned. The proof Signore offered in a YouTube video was a collection of beforehand unpublished communications he alleged have been between him and his sexual misconduct accuser that implied a consensual sexual relationship had taken place. The lady who had accused him responded on the time with an announcement that her allegations nonetheless stand. She didn’t reply to a request for remark. 

Signore returned to YouTube in 2018 on his private channel, “Popcorned Planet,” and his content material began out optimistic and film-focused, like organising screenings at film theaters in Tampa, Florida, to interview viewers members. However the movies bought fewer than 10,000 views.

He rapidly pivoted, pushing again towards mainstream media, “cancel tradition” and a few #MeToo accusers. He cited examples of progressive criticism geared toward widespread celebrities and franchises, and he repeatedly took intention at some superstar accusers and information retailers like BuzzFeed Information.

Signore additionally tapped into the development of offering minute-by-minute commentary about main popular culture and true crime information tales, usually making dozens of movies on explicit subjects. One was the disappearance of Gabby Petito, who was discovered useless final 12 months after weeks of looking out. Signore made greater than 80 movies about Petito in simply two months.

“He dove into the Petito factor till it was, like, overkill,” Jarbo mentioned. “Something he can latch onto, he’s boosted his account now.”

The movies, by which Signore largely targeted on information protection of Petito’s presumed killer, Brian Laundrie, and his household, introduced in a whole bunch of 1000’s of views and paved the way in which for what was to come back along with his nonstop protection of the Depp-Heard trial.

The identical 12 months Signore met Jarbo and started making movies difficult the allegations towards him, the backlash towards Heard began to construct and coalesce right into a social media motion in search of “justice for Johnny.” Depp accused Heard, who wrote a 2018 op-ed in The Washington Submit about changing into a public determine representing home abuse throughout #MeToo, of mendacity about having skilled abuse to hurt Depp’s popularity. Within the trial, which concluded this 12 months, a Virginia jury sided with Depp, awarding him $15 million in damages. The jury additionally awarded Heard $2 million in her countersuit.

(In Could, this reporter interviewed Signore about his protection of Depp and Heard for a possible NBC Information story, which ended up not being revealed. Signore recorded the interview and launched segments of it in July in a YouTube video criticizing NBC Information’ protection of the trial.)

Like Petito’s disappearance, the superstar trial was feverishly lined by many YouTubers, together with Signore, who mentioned in Could that the case was “extremely relatable” to him due to the allegations made towards him in 2017. Masking Heard as a villain earned Signore his most views on his new channel since Display Junkies mentioned it had fired him.

Signore revamped 100 movies about Depp and Heard earlier than the trial began, and he has made greater than 200 about it since. Signore’s most-viewed video in regards to the trial, at over 6 million views, distills the testimony of Depp’s bodyguard, which was largely in favor of Depp, from almost an hour to fifteen minutes of clips. In between clips from the trial, Signore feedback that he believes the testimony is true and displays strongly on Depp’s case. He dismisses Heard’s case all through. 

However the tens of millions of views might not have been as profitable because the donations many creators introduced in. Enterprise Insider reported that the highest three Tremendous Chat earners on YouTube throughout the trial have been creators who completely streamed it. All of them revamped $100,000 simply from suggestions. 

“It’s all the time misinformation throughout the board, they usually all pull from the identical playbook,” Jarbo mentioned. “Should you can faucet into that emotional bit together with your viewers, you’ll simply have the ability to manipulate them.”

Signore makes cash straight from his viewers by Tremendous Chats, usually in donations despatched with messages from viewers who say they recognize his tackle information occasions, a few of which he discusses in relation to his previous. 

“There’s no due course of,” Signore mentioned within the Could video evaluating himself to Depp and certainly one of his accusers to Heard. “Each media outlet wished to leap on it and destroy lives.”

The messages have resonated. On his “My Personal Amber Heard” video, a $49.99 donation included a message saying: “I’ve been a sufferer of [domestic violence] and what AH is doing is fallacious. False accusations make it more durable for actual victims. I’m glad you got here ahead to defend your self.” 

Signore additionally encourages his followers to pay him on Money App and PayPal, the place he receives the complete worth of their transactions (YouTube takes a lower of Tremendous Chat donations), and he has public Amazon want lists the place followers should purchase him a standing desk or an motion determine or buy toys and books for his youngsters. In July, Signore raised greater than $4,000 from his followers on GoFundMe to construct a brand new studio with 4K cameras for higher video high quality.

Signore incessantly makes movies mentioning his former co-workers and even their companions, which has resulted in his followers’ harassing them, they mentioned. Rei, together with two different former collaborators who requested to stay nameless for worry of retaliation, mentioned Signore has used his platform to harass them and others.

Final month, Rei hosted one other former collaborator of Signore’s, Brittany Truskosky, on her YouTube channel. Truskosky, 38, a former unpaid moderator of Signore’s YouTube channel, made new allegations towards him, saying he despatched her unsolicited nude photos and movies of himself, together with a video of him masturbating.

“He would say issues like ‘I shouldn’t ever inform,’” Truskosky mentioned in an interview.

“He’s very pushy and chronic,” she mentioned. “I assumed he was being very manipulative, however on the similar time I used to be afraid to go towards him.”

Truskosky offered a screenshot to NBC Information of a message she despatched Signore on Nov. 8, 2021, that mentioned “I believe we should always hold it platonic.” Truskosky mentioned that a number of weeks later, round Nov. 28, 2021, Signore despatched her a video of him masturbating as he was saying her title. 

In a response to the brand new claims, Signore mentioned in a video on his channel that Rei had shared “revenge porn” by displaying a part of the video throughout her stream and that she was breaking the regulation. He didn’t deny Truskosky’s allegations, however he steered the video might be a “deep faux,” which refers to computer-generated or in any other case edited movies that are supposed to look actual. 

Rei mentioned the scale of Signore’s platform could make it onerous for individuals to talk out.

“He’s an even bigger content material creator,” Rei mentioned. “Not everybody is supplied to take care of drama. Not everybody is supplied to take care of the trolls. It’s a little bit intimidating attempting to fight an even bigger platform.”

Since Signore got here ahead, followers and collaborators have known as Truskosky names like “homewrecker” and “skank” in movies and tweets considered by NBC Information. 

Signore’s private historical past is intimately tied to his content material, mentioned Dreyfuss, of Harvard’s Shorenstein Heart.

“These influencers who see themselves as outsiders and whose audiences see them as outsiders, usually their outsider standing is in direct response to one thing within the mainstream that they really feel both threatened them personally or threatened their id,” she mentioned.

Dreyfuss cited falling belief in establishments — together with the police, the medical neighborhood and mainstream media — because the driving pressure pushing audiences towards creators like Signore. That more and more consists of liberal or left-leaning audiences. 

“Persons are going to depend on these people increasingly to provide them info,” she mentioned. “Johnny Depp is strictly the type of icon the place individuals may give him assist with out it feeling political.”

Early final month, Signore met Depp backstage at certainly one of Depp’s live shows. Signore recorded the encounter for his channel, together with his dialog with Depp, who mentioned he “discovered quite a bit” from Signore’s protection of him.

“It was the fruits of so many issues in my life,” Signore says in his video about assembly Depp. “I do know so lots of you have been impressed by preventing for him, preventing towards the media.” 

The tip of Signore’s video contains a clip of Depp along with his arm slung round Signore’s shoulders. Depp smiles and kisses within the course of the digicam, then crops a kiss on Signore’s cheek. 

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