"GO BACK IN YOUR FETUS CAVE": HOW PREDATORY INFLUENCERS MANIPULATE AUDIENCES THROUGH PLATFORM RETREATS
Keywords:YouTube, Twitter, Predators, MiniLadd, Platform Retreat
In the summer of 2020, dozens of high-profile influencers in videogaming entertainment were accused of sexual harassment and predatory behavior. Among these, popular gaming YouTuber Craig Thompson (username 'Mini Ladd') confessed on Twitter to grooming minors but resumed uploading content to his YouTube channel one month later, resulting in public outcry. Thompson’s return to YouTube provides a case study in how predatory influencers can manipulate affordances across platforms, especially on YouTube, to insulate themselves from accountability and maintain their platform. Using scraped data from Twitter (34k tweets) and YouTube (62k comments and video network data), this article uses a mixed-methods social network analysis (Burgess and Matamoros-Fernández 2016) to map the public effort to deplatform Mini Ladd. This case study raises questions about cross-platform insulation and audience manipulation, by demonstrating how a predatory influencer 1) censored keywords in his comments to obfuscate criticism 2) gamed YouTube’s video algorithms to avoid references to his scandal and 3) redirected harassment onto his own fanbase. Ultimately, I argue that predatory influencers manipulate YouTube’s platform affordances to insulate themselves from accountability in the absence of moderation.