A french lifestyle YouTuber selected by YouTube to interview European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker claims an employee from the company blackmailed her into asking only softball questions.
The video with the accusation -- posted September 18 by Laetitia Birbes -- contains hidden camera footage of a man in a YouTube shirt instructing her on how to conduct her interview.
Corporate lobbies was one of the topics deemed "very difficult for Juncker to answer" and therefore to be avoided. Instead he suggested she ask him questions about his phone or his dog, and useless fluff like "What is happiness?" -- while any potential "red-flag questions" should be cleared with Juncker's spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud.
"You don't want the European Commission, YouTube and your followers to turn again you, unless you want to survive on YouTube," he informed Birbes in what she described as feeling like blackmail with her 66,150 follower strong YouTube channel held as hostage.
"At the beginning I realized that YouTube was trying to gently influence me," she said in her Facebook video seen by over 1,2 million people. "Then it got more serious and I felt threatened." "Clearly I had a choice: risk losing everything I’ve been working for until now for asking the question[s]."
Birbes also claims Google offered her a €25,000 "YouTube ambassador for humanitarian projects" grant after the Juncker interview, which she said felt like a bribe. "Are they proposing this contract to buy me off and for not showing the video -- not talking about this?"
According to politico, an anonymous spokesperson from Google denied the accusations.
When Juncker's spokeswoman was asked if the Commission had anything to do with the attempt to control questioning, she denied it and responded with this interesting line: "The only red flags for the Commission were to respect Europe’s diversity, gender equality and linguistic differences." In other words, it's not defined as control unless you control uncontroversial issues -- like Juncker's dog, which is probably adorable.
A YouTuber has posted a translation of Birbes' video.
YouTube mirror of the original Facebook video.