Russell Brand is moving his brand of social commentary over to Rumble, days after YouTube gave the comedic actor-turned-vlogger his “one lifetime warning” for posting misinformation about COVID-19 – despite that he self-corrected the mistake and apologized.
In early September, Brand posted a video on YouTube pointing out the shifting narratives around COVID from legacy and government health officials. Zooming in on a screenshot taken from the National Institutes of Health website, Brand said: “Yesterday, the National Institution of Health added Ivermectin to its list of COVID treatments.”
Brand was wrong. The post Brand was referencing said the NIH was “trialing” the legacy malaria treatment, but did not recommend it for anyone outside of those clinical trials. Brand’s followers were quick to point out the error, and he immediately took the video down and posted a mea culpa: “That was wrong,” he said. “We should have done better. We let you down. We will do better in the future.”
YouTube flagged him anyway. Brand said he was sent notice that he had violated “community guidelines” around COVID misinformation, and that the notice would stand as his one “lifetime” warning.
With YouTube’s one-strike policy – and Brand’s tendency to send monologues running down third rails – the “Get Him to the Greek” star swiftly migrated his library of more than 1,400 videos over to Rumble to prevent them from disappearing from the internet forever. Brand says going forward, his videos will appear on Rumble first, but he’ll continue uploading videos to YouTube “as long as they’ll allow us.”
Brand also announced that starting immediately, he’ll be hosting a one-hour livestream at 5 p.m. that’s exclusive to the conservative platform. Brand’s YouTube channel stands with 5.98 million subscribers, while the Rumble channel so far had picked up more than 600,000 (and was growing Wednesday at a rate of about 3,000 per hour).
Brand joined YouTube in 2007 and has amassed more than 800 million views for his topical, fast-cut rant edits that often touch on politics an policy. It appears his entire library made it safely over to Rumble, which displays 1,400 videos. He did not say whether he had made the move with some kind of content-creator deal with Rumble; neither the actor nor the company immediately responded to requests for comment Wednesday.
The Peter Thiel-backed Rumble has become a safe haven for conservative and other alternative viewpoints on topics – like COVID, election integrity and the war in Ukraine – that have become targets of censorship by YouTube, Twitter and other social giants. It’s also attracted the likes of Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and QAnon influencers.
Brand, well-known as a spiritualist and recovering addict who has advocated vociferously for progressive causes like marriage equality and criminal justice reforms, consistently declares he has no political allegiance, and fancies himself a truth-seeker. One thing he is not: afraid to explore lines of questioning considered aberrant by mainstream sources.
“I support and love all of you. If you love Donald Trump, I love you. If you love Joe Biden, I love you,” he said in his announcement video. “I want us to create new systems together and I don’t believe these institutionalized systems in the financial, government or media worlds are ever going to serve ordinary people. I believe we’re at a point of crisis, and things need to radically change, fast. And I believe we’ll be able to communicate our message more freely on Rumble.”
Brand did take the opportunity to highlight what he says is a double-standard in YouTube’s community guidelines, surfacing an old clip of Rachel Maddow saying on MSNBC that the COVID-19 vaccines end the possibility of infection and therefore stop the spread. “The virus stops with every vaccination,” Maddow says.
“I think most of us know now that that’s not true, but that video is up on YouTube right now … in my opinion, that’s misinformation,” he said. “Is there one standard for independent channels … and another for the mainstream media? Is it possible that YouTube is being colonized?”
Rumble, which touts that it does “not stifle, censor, or punish creativity and freedom of expression,” quietly went public last week and saw its stock shoot up 40% (it has since given back some of those gains). With sites like Gettr, Gab, Parler and Donald Trump’s Truth Social sputtering, it’s the sole success story of a platform launch spurred by Big Tech’s censorship spree.
“We know that Rumble has a reputation in some quarters for having some particular biases — biases that we are beyond,” Brand said. “I am interested in total transparent communication, empowerment of the audience, symbiotic two-way conversations and attacking elite establishments whether its corporate or state … that is why it’s so convenient that this has happened at this time.”