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YouTube stars' account demonetized after they are accused of throwing parties amid pandemic
YouTube has temporarily demonetized the account of popular pranksters known as the NELK Boys after they allegedly threw massive college parties amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision comes after the YouTubers, who have 5.7 million subscribers on the platform, were seen hosting parties at Illinois State University in what they reportedly called a "protest" of coronavirus regulations.
YouTube said in a statement on Twitter that NELK's recent behavior violates the platform's Creator Responsibility Policy, which mandates that creators do not engage in "on- and/or off-platform behavior [that] harms our users, community, employees or ecosystem."
The company said in a statement that it believes the men are "creating a widespread public health risk."
The Hill has reached out to YouTube for comment.
The company was responding to a NELK video shared on Instagram, obtained by New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz.
The NELK Twitter account also appeared to share footage from the parties.
The video showed hundreds of college students crammed together, without visible face masks or social distancing per safety guidance amid the pandemic.
Illinois State University (ISU) president Larry Dietz told local outlet The Pantagraph on Thursday that officials are investigating the party and those found to have violated the school's code of conduct could face punishments ranging from probation to expulsion.
"Right now we're still gathering information about the individuals and the behaviors that they exhibited at that event and verifying their presence before we start all of this," Dietz said, adding: "We just can't tolerate that behavior. I know people like to have fun, but we're in the middle of a pandemic. There will be time for fun after we get this pandemic handled."
The NELK Boys reportedly visited several locations in the town of Normal, near ISU, which currently prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, on Tuesday night and early Wednesday.
Police broke up the gatherings, according to The Pantagraph.
A new analysis released on Friday by USA Today found that college campuses are fueling the largest coronavirus outbreaks across the United States.
Of the 25 hottest outbreaks in the U.S., communities with dominant colleges and thousands of recently returned students represent 19 of them.
McLean County, where Illinois State is located, has been identified one of the hotspots. As of Friday, there has been 844 cases reported per 100,000 people.
The NELK Boys channel, which is comprised of Kyle Forgeard, Jesse Sebastiani and Steve Deleonardis, has been traveling around the country and visiting college towns.
In August, they faced criticism for throwing similar parties in Los Angeles amid the pandemic.
Deleonardis posted a video in August on his personal channel called SteveWillDoIt titled "I THREW A PROTEST IN LA!" which showed them leading a crowd chanting "open the gyms" with signs that read "Gym Lives Matter."
The video received more than 1.7 million views and they responded to backlash by saying they'd never "change or simmer down our comedy to please people, especially snowflakes."
On Friday, he posted on Instagram that his personal channel had also been demonetized.
"I officially make 0 dollars from YouTube now. So basically I will be getting millions and millions [of] views on YouTube every single month and not even get paid a dollar," he wrote. "They didn't pay me much every month but now it's completely cut off."
The Hill has reached out to the NELK Boys and the Normal Police Department for comment.
Other social media personalities have faced criminal charges for allegedly throwing house parties during the pandemic.
TikTok stars Bryce Hall and Blake Gray were charged in Los Angeles last month with violating the "Safer LA" emergency order issued during the outbreak, as well as an ordinance that forbids "loud and unruly gatherings."