Since 27 July, Twitter has been flooded with users commenting on the trending hashtag #RIPShane, referring to the alleged (and now confirmed fake) death of American YouTuber Shane Dawson, whose real name is Shane Lee Yaw, who has been engulfed in controversy over the past few months.
The hashtag began trending after a non-verified account fronting as the popular celebrity gossip website TMZ tweeted, “American Youtuber Shane Dawson dead at 32 #RIPShane.”
The fake news about Dawson’s death spread quickly, leading to massive online personalities like Jeffrey Star making public announcements about the death of their fellow YouTube peer.
Dawson is one of YouTube’s original stars, who rose to fame in 2008 when he began amassing millions of views and followers on his channel. His YouTube style is known for its humour-filled content, and by 2010, the then 21-year-old Dawson had reached over half a billion views across his channel.
Today, Dawson is known for his sketch comedy and has now branched out into a podcast, making appearances in film and television, publishing two best-selling books, creating a docu-series and releasing music.
Over the past two months, Dawson has been accused of racism, anti-semitism and sexualising as a joke a poster of 11-year-old Willow Smith.
The controversy began when an old video of Dawson wearing blackface surfaced as the YouTuber used dark coloured makeup to impersonate celebrities, including Wendy Williams and Chris Brown.
A second accusation of anti-semitism then surfaced by fellow YouTuber Dennis Feitosa, also known online under the name Def Noodles, shared an old video of Dawson’s in which he plays Hitler and says “kill the jews.”
Finally, at the end of June, Jada Pinkett-Smith as well as her son Jaden, took to Twitter to condone Dawson for sexualising Willow Smith in a video that sees Dawson pretend-masturbate to a poster of the child star, daughter of Jada and Will Smith, who is 11-years-old in the poster.
After an apologetic tweet, Dawson published on 26 June, a 20-minute video titled Taking accountability where the 32-year-old YouTube star admits and apologises for the accusations he’s been called out for. Dawson apologises for the “hurt” he has caused individuals and his fans.
According to The Evening Standard Insider, since the recent scandals, Dawson has lost 700,000 followers. One thing is sure though, he’s still alive and kicking.