The Troubling Promise of Rumble

Rumble/ Steven Crowder Rumble/Andrew Tate podcasts Kai Cenat/YouTube Rumble/Wikimedia Commons Remix by Caterina Cox

Video hosting and live streaming site Rumble has always positioned itself as a “free space” for creators who feel excluded from big tech sites like Twitch or YouTube. Founded in 2013 by Canadian entrepreneur Chris Pavlovski, the site has made a name for itself as the safe haven for conservative extremists like white nationalist Nick Fuentes, conspiracy monger Alex Jones, misogynist Andrew Tate, and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.

These users don’t have to fear banning or pushback on their content—even if it is misleading or hateful. 

But recently, Rumble has been making larger moves to expand outside of the conservative bubble. On April 13, streamer Jidion Adams announced that he would start streaming on both Rumble and YouTube. Once one of Twitch’s fastest-rising stars, he was permanently banned on Twitch in January 2022 after he had encouraged his fans to harass streamer Imane Anys, known as Pokimane.

Adams isn’t really a political personality, but rather an agent of chaos that pranks random people around the world, mostly by just annoying them into a reaction. He’s pushed the bar multiple times and has been arrested in Paris and Houston for his antics.

“Why did I move over to Rumble? They gave me the bag,” Adams said in an April live stream announcing the collaboration. “On Rumble, I can be the new guy, no politics, I can just post some banger-ass content and change the perspective of a whole website.” 

Just a month later on May 15, Rumble announced that Kai Cenat and Darren “iShowSpeed” Watkins would be hosting a live-streamed show on the platform. Watkins is indefinitely banned from Twitch for making rape threats on an Adin Ross e-dating stream in December 2021, where Ross would invite a woman who could choose one of the streamer’s friends to date. Watkins asked the woman if they were the last two people on earth, “Would you reproduce with me?” When she declined, Watkins responded by screaming, “If we the last two people on Earth, who’s going to stop me?” 

Relatively tame in comparison, Cenat has only received around five temporary suspensions including for simulated sexual activity in Grand Theft Auto and passing out on-camera after eating too many edibles.

But both are incredibly popular—in March, Cenat broke the record (which he still holds) for most paying Twitch subscribers with over 300,000, and Watkins has over 10 million subscribers on his YouTube channel.

“We know our fans are going to love what we have in the works, a few surprises, plus it’s always a crazy time when me and Kai are together,” Watkins said in a press release about the announcement. The pair also released a teaser video where they cooked, boxed, and got chased down by a tiger—all content that is allowed on YouTube and Twitch. 

(Adams and Watkins did not respond to a request for comment. Cenat declined to comment.)

“Creators are always looking at what new opportunities there are in the space, and for many, it’s important to diversify where their content lives,” Brandon Freytag, chief of creator monetization at influencer talent agency Loaded, told Passionfruit. “Rumble offers another window where specific content can live, and Rumble historically has taken a very hands-off approach—for some creators, creative freedom and control is a huge selling point.”

Hands off and into the fire

The content that Rumble allows the platform is worrisome, especially with this new wave of streamers coming to the platform. Rumble has become a home for incredibly radical personalities, and it’s even allowed anti-vax and QAnon conspiracy theories to run rampant.

There are also more tame personalities, like traditional celebrity Russell Brand and a former member of the prank collective Nelk, named SteveWillDoIt. Introductions with these creators could lead fewer media-savvy viewers down a much-maligned and controversial rabbit hole. 

Gogarty, a research director at the non-profit Media Matters, which studies the rise of extremist content on the internet, told Passionfruit she is very concerned about the platform being a bridge to extremism.

“Maybe some of this younger audience goes on to watch this creator that they’ve been following for a while, and now they can see on Rumble’s leaderboard or some of the other recommendations that they could be some of these of the white nationalist content, misogynistic content,” Gogarty said.

According to a Pew Research Center study, about 20% of Rumble’s top 200 personalities have been banned or demonetized on other social media platforms. Rumble does have an “open-source content moderation policy,” specifically barring illegal content, pornography, stalking, and race and religion-based discrimination. But it’s hard to tell how well it’s enforced since finding anyone banned on the platform is difficult. 

Is Rumble really worth it?

Creators can make money on the site off of ad revenue since Rumble is heavily monetized. The site announced that creators will receive 100% of the revenue generated from $5-a-month subscriptions through 2023.

Passionfruit reporters also witnessed ads appearing in front of every video or live stream, with some including larger brands like Subaru, Grubhub LifeLock, and Martell on the site. The site has been making bank, bringing in $17.6 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2023, according to public disclosures from the company

“While sometimes edgy content can attract eyeballs, there is a fine line between how far you go with that content before partners get uncomfortable,” executive Freytag said. “Every platform has to consider the content’s safety as it relates to the advertisers they attract and do business with, and creators will need to constantly balance the same.” 

Rumble is also trying to create a stronger infrastructure to facilitate this new wave of creators. On May 17, the site announced that it had bought Callin, a San Francisco-based podcasting and live-streaming platform, to “create beneficial synergies” according to its founder Pavlovski in a press release.

Podcasting has become a huge boon on the platform, with the rise of misogynistic podcasts from Andrew Tate or the collective Fresh and Fit bringing in millions of viewers.

Creators outside the political sphere who have been victims of the moderation policies of larger sites have been seeing the news about Rumble and are now viewing it as a viable alternative. 

Ghost (an online alias) is a creator that has been posting predator-hunting videos on YouTube under the “CC Unit” channel for the past three years. But his channel was recently removed for repeated violations of community guidelines—in August 2022 YouTube changed their rules so that “uploads showcasing vigilantism may not run ads.”

Now he’s considering Rumble as a viable alternative. He’s already started posting.  

“I picked Rumble because I looked at other websites. I looked at Rumble, Facebook. Rumble is probably the best alternative for right now,” Ghost told Passionfruit. “It’s a place where I can build an audience and where my supporters can find me.” 

For creators who have been shunned from mainstream discourse, Rumble does initially seem like a valid alternative. But then, you also have to deal with the repercussions of having your content hoisted alongside some of the most controversial political figures.

As Rumble courts these streamers, there’s an honest danger to it. YouTube might allow some seedy figures, but they don’t prominently feature them on the home page, alongside gaming and sports streams.  

“They are using some of those creators that have been banned on other platforms, but think about why they were banned from other platforms,” researcher Gogarty said. “And so now they’re just bringing that sort of content onto Rumble and Rumble is embracing them.” 

A Rumble representative was “happy to take a look” at questions sent by Passionfruit for this story, but did not answer them.

Are you a creator with an experience on Rumble? Email [email protected] to share your story.

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