Firms pull ads from Rumble platform over Russell Brand videos

<span>Photograph: PA</span>
Photograph: PA

A number of large companies have pulled their advertisements from the video platform Rumble, where Russell Brand broadcasts his weekly show, in the week since allegations of rape and sexual assault against the comedian came to light.

The News Movement reported on Friday that Burger King, Asos, the Barbican and HelloFresh, the recipe box delivery service, had removed their ads. Brand has 1.4m followers on the platform. YouTube suspended Brand’s ability to earn money on its platform on Tuesday but Rumble has rejected calls to do the same. On Friday, Brand said the moves to block him from receiving advertising revenue for his videos on social media platforms have occurred “in the context of the online safety bill”.

On Thursday, Rumble accused a parliamentary committee of “deeply inappropriate” behaviour after Caroline Dinenage, the Conservative chair of the culture, media and sport committee, wrote a letter to the company’s chief executive, Chris Pavlovski, to express concern that Brand “may be able to profit from his content on the platform”.

In a public statement posted on X, Rumble called the letter “disturbing” and said parliament’s demands were “deeply inappropriate and dangerous”. The platform added that it was devoted 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”.

Rumble added: “Singling out an individual and demanding his ban is even more disturbing given the absence of any connection between the allegations and his content on Rumble.”

Last weekend, Brand was accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse between 2006 and 2013 after a joint investigation by the Sunday Times, the Times and Channel 4 Dispatches. He denies the allegations.

On Friday, Brand made his first public comments since the allegations were made public in a new video he posted online. In the three-minute video posted on YouTube, Rumble and X, he described them as “extraordinary and distressing” and accused the government of seeking to censor him.

Burger King told the News Movement it had paused all advertising while investigations into the allegations were ongoing. Asos said it had manually removed its ads from Rumble. Barbican said it had asked its media agency to exclude the site from where its ads appear.

The Times estimates that Brand earns £27,000 a month from his Rumble channel and £1m a year from YouTube before ads were suspended. His literary agent, tour promoter and book publisher have also dropped him.

According to Rumble’s website, it is “immune to cancel culture” and aims to “restore the internet to its roots by making it free and open once again”. Pavlovksi has described it as “neutral”.

Rumble was founded in 2013. Its popularity soared after the 2020 presidential election, with its monthly users growing from 2 million to more than 20 million at the end of that year, according to Forbes. As of 2022, Rumble has a reported 78 million active users globally.

According to Pew Research, three-quarters of those who regularly get news from Rumble identify as Republicans or lean towards the Republican party. In contrast, 22% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic.

Rumble is backed by the billionaire and prominent conservative venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who invested in 2021, and the conservative former Fox News presenter Dan Bongino, who has 2.9 million subscribers himself. The platform is valued at more than $2bn (£1.6bn).