PewDiePie’s ongoing battle to keep his channel’s YouTube subscriber count No. 1 ahead of India’s T-Series took another bizarre twist: A branded-content section of the Wall Street Journal’s website was hacked with a fake message apologizing to PewDiePie and urging people to subscribe to his channel.
A spokeswoman for Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, noted that the affected page was not affiliated with the Journal’s newsroom but rather was operated by advertising group’s the WSJ Custom Solutions team. The affected page appeared under Oracle’s sponsored section of WSJ.com.
“We are aware of the issue and the page has been taken down,” the Dow Jones rep said. “We have launched a full investigation.”
The hacked WSJ.com page was removed Monday (Dec. 17) around 11:45 a.m. ET. That came shortly after PewDiePie — the popular gamer/comedy vlogger whose real name is Felix Kjellberg — posted a link to the page and gloated in a tweet Monday, “WSJ joins the fight vs tseries.”
The vandals behind the Wall Street Journal’s marketing page conflated the fight with T-Series with PewDiePie’s anger toward the news outlet after the Journal’s February 2017 report calling attention to his videos with jokes that included Nazi imagery and anti-Semitic themes, which led to Disney’s Maker Studios and later YouTube cutting their business ties with him. At the time, PewDiePie complained that the WSJ and other news organizations took the anti-Semitic elements of his videos out of context to inaccurately portray him “as a Nazi” and he labeled the Journal piece “a personal attack.” (PewDiePie also apologized, saying “I admit that the joke itself went too far.”)
A few weeks ago, a pro-PewDiePie hacker hijacked 50,000 internet-connected printers to spit out messages urging people to subscribe to PewDiePie and unsubscribe from T-Series.
The hacks have been part of a larger campaign by Kjellberg’s fans to help PewDiePie retain his reign as the most-subscribed individual YouTube channel ahead of the steady rise of T-Series, which posts popular Indian music videos. Currently, PewDiePie has 77.2 million subscribers, followed by T-Series at 75.8 million.
On the hacked WSJ.com page Monday, a message (bylined as being from T-Series) read: “WallStreet Journal would like to apologize to pewdiepie. Due to misrepresentation by our journalists, those of whom have now been fired, we are sponsoring pewdiepie to reach maximum subscribers and beat Tseries to 80million. We also need your credit card number, expiry date, and the lucky 3 digits on the back to win the chicken dinner in fortnite.” The WSJ.com page also included a “Subscribe Here” link to PewDiePie’s YouTube channel, followed by a string of photo memes.
Here’s an image of the now-removed hacked page on WSJ.com: