Poland’s prime minister says he has asked law-enforcement authorities to urgently investigate recent claims that prominent Polish YouTubers have been involved in grooming underage fans.
Mateusz Morawiecki’s intervention comes after the publication of an investigation by a YouTuber and filmmaker, Sylwester Wardęga, in which he published screenshots, voice recordings and videos of interactions between several YouTube stars and their young fans.
In the published material, the stars allegedly discussed their sexual fantasies with minors, solicited female fans to meet them, and facilitated underage drinking. Among those accused is a prominent YouTuber known as Stuu, who has over four million subscribers on the platform.
Wardęga’s video – which has been viewed over 5.4 million times since being published two days ago – came after several alleged victims of other YouTubers had already taken to the internet to discuss their interactions with the stars. Some have dubbed the movement “Polish Me Too”.
In a live broadcast on Facebook, Morawiecki warned that what had been revealed so far could be “just the tip of the iceberg”.
“We heard the story of a man who, in all likelihood, used his internet fame to harm underage girls,” said the prime minister, referring to Stuu. “There is no consent for paedophilia, there is no consent for pathological-celebrity behaviour on the internet.”
He announced that he has “instructed all [law-enforcement] services to look into this matter. I expect swift and decisive action on this subject. You will face punishment, the most severe that is provided for in the law”. Morawiecki also revealed that a hotline for victims to tell their stories anonymously will be created.
This morning, Poland’s national police headquarters announced that its cybercrime division has secured material in relation to the alleged “paedophilic behaviour among influencers” and that prosecutors are leading an investigation.
An opposition leader, Szymon Holownia of the Poland 2050 (Polska 2050) party, said that the case cannot be ignored just because it is happening “in a world we [adults] do not understand”. He called for better education of children on how to spot grooming.
“I don’t dream of shutting down YouTube, censoring it, disconnecting children from the web,” he said. “On the contrary, it is us adults who have to follow our children there. To understand and stop fooling ourselves into thinking that we are keeping our children in a world of notepads and crayons.”
In 2020, Poland created a commission tasked with investigating cases of paedophilia in the wake of documentaries revealing cases of abuse and alleged coverups in the Catholic church. The following year, it issued its first report and a set of recommendations to tackle sexual abuse.
Nie możemy zamykać oczu na problemy młodszych od nas. pic.twitter.com/rSIhIVK0E7
— Szymon Hołownia (@szymon_holownia) October 4, 2023
Main image credit: freestocks.org / Pexels
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.