In the wake of disturbing allegations of rape and sexual assault against comedian Russell Brand, several prominent companies have chosen to withdraw their advertisements from the video platform Rumble, where Brand broadcasts his weekly show. The allegations surfaced in a joint investigation by The Sunday Times, The Times, and Channel 4 Dispatches, accusing Brand of rape, sexual assault, and emotional abuse between 2006 and 2013. Brand has vehemently denied these allegations.
The News Movement reported on Friday that Burger King, Asos, the Barbican, and HelloFresh, the recipe box delivery service, have taken the step to remove their ads from Rumble. Russell Brand boasts a substantial following of 1.4 million users on the platform. YouTube had earlier suspended Brand's ability to earn money on its platform in response to the allegations, but Rumble has thus far declined to follow suit.
In a statement released on Friday, Brand suggested that the actions to block his advertising revenue on social media platforms have been influenced by the "context of the online safety bill."
On Thursday, Rumble accused a parliamentary committee of engaging in "deeply inappropriate" behavior. Caroline Dinenage, the Conservative chair of the culture, media, and sport committee, had written a letter expressing concern that Brand "may be able to profit from his content on the platform." In response, Rumble labeled the letter as "disturbing" and criticized parliament's demands as "deeply inappropriate and dangerous." Rumble stressed its dedication to an internet "where no one arbitrarily dictates which ideas can or cannot be heard, or which citizens may or may not be entitled to a platform." The platform also emphasized that singling out Brand for a ban was especially concerning given the absence of any direct connection between the allegations and his content on Rumble.
In his first public comments since the allegations surfaced, Brand posted a three-minute video on YouTube, Rumble, and X. In the video, he described the allegations as "extraordinary and distressing" and accused the government of attempting to censor him.
Burger King informed The News Movement that it has temporarily halted all advertising on Rumble while investigations into the allegations are ongoing. Asos stated that it manually removed its ads from Rumble, and the Barbican indicated that it instructed its media agency to exclude the platform from its ad placements.
According to estimates by The Times, Brand earns £27,000 a month from his Rumble channel and £1 million a year from YouTube before ads were suspended. Additionally, Brand's literary agent, tour promoter, and book publisher have severed ties with him.
Rumble, as stated on its website, positions itself as "immune to cancel culture" and seeks to "restore the internet to its roots by making it free and open once again." Chris Pavlovski, Rumble's chief executive, has described the platform as "neutral."
Founded in 2013, Rumble's popularity skyrocketed after the 2020 presidential election, with monthly users surging from 2 million to over 20 million by the end of that year, according to Forbes. As of 2022, Rumble has reported 78 million active users globally.
Pew Research data indicates that three-quarters of those who regularly consume news from Rumble identify as Republicans or lean towards the Republican party, with only 22% identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic.
Rumble has received backing from billionaire and prominent conservative venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who invested in 2021, and conservative former Fox News presenter Dan Bongino, who himself has 2.9 million subscribers on the platform. The platform is currently valued at more than $2 billion (£1.6 billion).