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David Dobrik controversy explained — Vlog Squad, apology and latest news

David Dobrik apology video
(Image credit: David Dobrik via YouTube)

David Dobrik has issued an apology video following sexual assault allegations involving Vlog Squad members, saying he's taking a short break from social media. Dobrik says the timeout will give him the opportunity to address the "serious lack of infrastructure" around his content creation, which has been criticised for lack of consent, and instances of bullying, racism and sexism. 

The apology video uploaded this week is actually the second one Dobrik has put out. It's the first to address the extent of the allegations, and comes in the wake of Dobrik losing multiple sponsors. 

The situation garnered mainstream media coverage after Business Insider spoke to a woman who says she was raped by Vlog Squad member Dom Zeglaitis during a 2018 video the Vlog Squad filmed about group sex. 

The first apology video, titled 'Let's talk' was uploaded on Dobrik's VIEWS channel which has a total of 1.7 million subscribers, compared to his main channel's 18.6 million, and his secondary David Dobrik Too channel with its 8.76 million subscribers, and glazes over much of the accusations being levied at Dobrik and his crew.  

David Dobrik and the Vlog Squad

David Dobrik is a 24-year-old YouTuber whose content falls into the realms of pranks and reality TV. His videos feature celebrity cameos, collabs with other YouTubers, and self-described content "that relied on shock for views." 

The Vlog Squad is made up of friends and acquaintances of Dobrik's, with the line-up changing as members of the group left, or were pushed out according to their individual accounts. 

Fellow Vlog Squad member Jeff Wittek describes how Dobrik assigns 'characters' to members. YouTuber Trisha Paytas, who was also featured in the vlogs, elaborated by explaining that Dobrik uses stereotypical characterizations of members and has them play up to these exaggerated versions of themselves in his content. The two spoke candidly about the situation in a recent episode of Frenemies on the H3 Podcast channel — a show Trisha co-hosts with long-time YouTuber Ethan Klein.     

Dom Zeglaitis (a.k.a Durte Dom), the man at the center of the rape allegations and childhood friend of Dobrik, often exhibits sexist and misogynistic behaviour in the vlog. His behavior off-camera appears to follow this pattern, with women coming forward to share accounts of his inappropriate behavior on social media. Despite making his own apology video in 2017, those behaviors seem to have continued. 

David Dobrik and the sexual assault allegations

According to Business Insider's report, in November 2018 Dobrik and the Vlog Squad put out a call on social media looking for women to participate in a five-some with Dom. A group of seven college students responded via Instagram, which Vlog Squad member Jeff Witteck intimates that he took as consent to any sexual activity that followed in his Frenemies interview, before walking it back. 

Not all of the girls in the group were aware who David or the Vlog Squad were, and made it clear they were not on board with participating in sexual acts with the men present. David explicitly lays this out in his video, saying in his voice over, "it was clear there was no five-some happening tonight." It then skips over the ensuing events, with David moving the timeline forward to an apparent change of heart from the women. He attributes this to a "stroke of luck and master negotiating." 

In reality, according to the report, alcohol was supplied to the girls, some of whom were under drinking age. One of the girls blacked out and has patchy memories of the assault, but Dom entered the bedroom with her and one of her friends to participate in what the Vlog Squad video portrays as a consensual threesome. 

During the threesome as depicted in the video, Vlog Squad members are filmed peeking into the bedroom and making unsavory comments on the activity inside. This was done without consent, although Wittek claims that nothing sexual was taking place at the time they were looking in.  

The reality of events as the women recount it is incredibly harrowing. Combined with the video and photographic evidence provided to Business Insider, as well as witness accounts, the woman was too drunk to consent, and was unable to stand or get dressed without assistance. She was vomiting, and passed out in the bathroom of the apartment, and a photo from later in the evening shows her being held up by her friends outside of the elevators, accompanied by Vlog Squad members David Dobrik, Jeff Wittek, Nick Antonyan, and Todd Smith.

David's video of the evening was posted to his channel, and clocked up over 800,000 views in the first day. The woman who was raped eventually reached out to Dom in February 2019, sending a lengthy message stressing that she didn't consent to the events that took place. She described it as "incredibly disturbing...to have a video online that documents an entire night that I have no recollection of, and have everyone around me view that as a reflection of my character, especially considering the mature content," adding, "Looking back on the experience, I feel taken advantage of."

Dom responded, "Okay, I respect your wishes. The videos down." 

David Dobrik's past behavior 

Much of what the Vlog Squad has gotten up to has been largely ignored by the media and YouTube community, and only recently began garnering attention following former member Big Nik's appearance on the H3 Podcast. Nik Keswani was born with dwarfism, and in his interview, he recounts how this was the butt of the jokes made in the Vlog Videos and how uncomfortable it made him. After receiving harassment from viewers and fans in real life as well as online, and spiralling into a depression that resulted in suicidal thoughts, Nik eventually stopped appearing in the vlogs. He describes the Vlog Squad as a "huge cult" with "bad energy" that he "didn't want any part of".

After Nik's appearance on the show, another former Vlog Squad member, Joseth 'Seth' Francois was interviewed on the H3 Podcast channel, sharing his own experiences which include racist jokes in videos, and his own allegations of sexual assault carried out by then-45-year-old Jason Nash. Nash is David's right-hand man, and is a long-time member of the Squad. He also dated Trisha Paytas for a short time. When Seth expressed his concerns to David, he was essentially offered a payout so David could leave the videos on his channel.  

Paytas has her own accounts of her experience with the Vlog Squad, which are equally disturbing. She touches on some of these instances in a 2019 video (via Newsweek), and they involve David trying to pressure Trisha into having a threesome with her then-boyfriend Jason Nash, and fellow Vlog Squad member Tana Mongeau, offering her money to do so. This isn't the first video in which he's offering women financial compensation to participate in sexual acts for the vlog. David has also filmed and uploaded videos of Trisha without her consent, and has made light of her distress and past mental health issues in them.  

The full extent of Dobrik's behavior is now coming to light, and as the director and orchestrator of the blog he is far more accountable than he leads his viewers to believe. Paytas claims she's had a number of women reach out to share their stories with her, and they feature the same theme of a toxic environment with pressure to go along with events that made them uncomfortable.          

David Dobrik defenders

Since these allegations began to surface, Dobrik has remained silent on the issue, allowing fellow Vlog Squad members to speak up on his behalf. Scotty Sire uploaded a video debunking Seth and Nik's claims which he later deleted, in which he shows text messages and video Dobrik has provided to him for the content. After a massive backlash, Sire deleted the video and posted an apology to Twitter.

In an H3 podcast episode addressing Sire's video, Ethan Klein commented, "It seems like David used this guy [Sire] to get the best response. Clearly David knows that Scotty is making this video and it's supplementing him with information."

David Dobrik's apology

David Dobrik has been silent as victims shared their accounts, and spoke up for the first time in his apology video uploaded to the VIEWS channel. The channel has a fraction of the subscribers of his main and secondary channel. The video is kept vague, and with no context (which he doesn't provide) it's not apparent what he's referring to in the video. 

While he names Seth, he didn't reach out to speak to him. Seth confirms this on his Twitter account, saying, "Not calling me to sincerely apologize man to man is equivalent to having me kiss a man without my consent."   

Dobrik's first apology refers to the Seth instance as 'missing the mark' but doesn't go any deeper than that. As the story gained traction, Dobrik's lawyers reached out to Business Insider, and attempted to discredit Paytas as a source, who was only contacted by the outlet to corroborate the womens' story. Paytas is not the one who levelled these allegations at the Vlog Squad. 

All of this was as recent as one week ago, but as the media coverage has ramped up and Dobrik was dropped by his sponsors, he's apparently changed his stance on the situation. The second apology video was uploaded on his main channel just days later, and while it addresses the allegations against Dom, Dobrik takes little responsibility for his part in events that night. 

Instead, he distances himself from Dom and the type of content he was making not that long ago, suggesting he didn't understand the power dynamic of the group which allowed him to push people into making content they were uncomfortable with. It's a strange claim to make given that he has allegedly tried to pay people off so he could leave certain videos on his channel when they wanted them taken down.

He can also be seen in a number of his videos harassing, coercing, and even trying to bribe Vlog Squad members to participate in acts (including sexual acts) that they are making it clear they want no part of. Some only agreed because they were in desperate need of money, which David was aware of at the time.    

While this week's video hits all the beats of a YouTuber apology, it comes off the back of David being forced to address the allegations, now that his sponsors have jumped ship. He's had ample time to speak up, or make contact with the victims of the Vlog Squad, but has kept quiet.  

A post on the H3H3 subreddit by a survivor of sexual assault breaks down just how disingenuous Dobrik's apology is in the context of recent events, as well his awareness of his own behavior as well as other Vlog Squad members' which has been ignored. 

Dobrik seems to think his apology is sufficient, and has every intent of continuing to create content.  

"I'm going to take a short break from all the social media stuff because I realize that there's a serious lack of infrastructure when I make any kind of content.

"And I want to be able to have a place of checks and balances, I want to have HR. And I want to be able to have people communicate discomfort in a way that's comfortable to them, and they don't feel like their emotions or what they're doing or how they're acting is compromised."  

While the lack of HR and consent process is blatantly obvious, victims have spoken up to David and other members of the Vlog Squad, but have had their concerns ignored or dismissed. 

Shabana Arif

Shabana is T3's News Editor covering tech and gaming, and has been writing about video games for almost a decade (and playing them since forever). As well as contributing to Tom's Guide, she's had bylines at major gaming sites during her freelance career before settling down at T3, and has podcasts, streaming, and video content under her belt to boot. Outside of work, she also plays video games and should really think about expanding her hobbies.