Influencer PewDiePie, otherwise known as Felix Kjellberg, pulled off what was arguably the biggest hoax in YouTube's history over the weekend, after promising to "delete" his channel a few days earlier.
The creator, who just topped Forbes' list of the world's top-earning YouTube stars of the year, trolled fans last week by announcing that he would delete his channel when he hit 50 million subscribers. The gamer claimed that YouTube was trying to "kill," his reach and that his videos weren't getting as many views.
However, on Saturday (10 November) PewDiePie revealed that the promise had been nothing more than a publicity stunt, and after reaching 50 million viewers he did indeed delete his channel; but it wasn't his main one. The star deleted a defunct secondary account, Jack Septiceye2, instead.
The Swedish creator's prank exposed the nature of 'fake news' stories – an issue which has come under the spotlight in the aftermath of the US election.
"You know when you make a joke and it just blows up way bigger than you ever imagined,” PewDiePie said in the follow up video. “This was covered by media everywhere — the fact that I said I was going to delete my channel."
Nonetheless, some of the claims in PewDiePie's original video saw him take a massive aim at YouTube. He claimed that YouTube had changed how it promoted videos, insisted that changes had been made to the homepage and that users were removing people from subscriber's lists without notifying them.
Google moved quickly to deny the changes last week, with a spokesperson telling The Drum in an email: "Some creators have expressed concerns around a drop in their subscriber numbers.
"We've done an extensive review and found there have been no decreases in creators subscriber numbers beyond what normally happens when viewers either unsubscribe from a creator's channel or when YouTube removes spammed subscribers. We do the latter to ensure that all creator subscriber numbers are accurate."
While PewDiePie has now declared the whole occurrence as a "joke," some initially speculated that the first video was indicative of a wider problem between YouTube and its creators.
YouTube faced a backlash earlier this year after false reports it had changed the way it approved videos for monetization on the site. At the time it said it had simply introduced a notification system to make users aware of demonetization, but some creators - and their fans - took to Twitter to complain under the hashtage #YouTubeIsOverParty.
However, Sean Brown, head of talent at marketing agency Social Chain, which works with the likes of Puma, said he cant see creators leaving the platform any time soon but speculated as to what the root of the issue could be.
"Adsense is too much of a cash cow, but it’s evident that something is happening with the way videos are reaching subscribed viewers. The need for clickbait thumbnails and titles, maximising video likes and the recommended section have all seemed broken over the past few months and it is starting to negatively affect the creator community in a large way."
"The only way creators will leave Youtube, is if Facebook (which has the potential reach) starts a program that awards creators Adsense style and if that happens (coupled with some search updates), we will be seeing a very different social landscape," he finished.
PewDiePie has earned $15m over the past year according to Forbes, making him the platform's highest earning creator.