Starting Monday, the trial will commence against the mother of a teenage YouTube sensation, who is facing accusations of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from 11 young content creators that appeared on her daughter's channel. This lawsuit will provide a rare look into the unregulated and profitable industry of child YouTube fame. All of the plaintiffs in the case, who are teens themselves, contend that Tiffany Smith, the mother of YouTube star Piper Rockelle, intentionally caused them emotional distress while having "care and control" over them in the production of content for Rockelle's YouTube channel. According to the complaint, the teen creators suffered physical and emotional harm due to "harassment, molestation, and abuse."
Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that some of the plaintiffs were not compensated for the use of their images to promote Piper Rockelle's content, and all of them state that they did not receive payment for their work and appearances, despite not being promised payment. Some of the accusations against Tiffany Smith have caught the attention of concerned individuals, providing a window into the unregulated realm of child YouTube fame often referred to as the "Wild West."
YouTube disclaims responsibility for the offscreen behavior of its content creators, and the rules around generating social media content featuring minors are surprisingly scarce. As a result, the teenagers are seeking damages of around $2 million each, adding up to a minimum of $22 million, from Smith and her partner Hunter Hill, who the complaint names as the manager and editor of Rockelle's YouTube channel.
All of the claimants were once members of the "Piper Squad," a group associated with 15-year-old Piper Rockelle's YouTube channel, which boasts over 10 million subscribers. The cast of the "Squad" is comprised of children and young teens, and their relationships and exploits are broadcasted to millions of viewers. Despite their young age, the plaintiffs claim they were requested to simulate romantic "crushes" on each other in order to deceive young audiences. The complaint, as well as the mothers of six former "Squad" members who spoke with NBC News, assert that the group's dynamics and romantic storylines have resulted in problems like online bullying and harassment of their children. According to the complaint and these mothers, Smith has left their children traumatized.
Ashley Anne-Rock Smith, mother of two daughters who are plaintiffs in the case and Rockelle's cousins, expressed her desire to restore peace with her children, but there was no immediate response from YouTube. Back in July, Smith filed a countersuit for $30 million, alleging that the mothers of the plaintiffs had conspired to extort money by making false claims of sexual abuse. However, Smith dropped the lawsuit before the mothers had the opportunity to respond. Matthew Sarelson, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, dismissed the lawsuit as "groundless." Despite requests for comment, an attorney for Smith did not respond. In a December interview with the Los Angeles Times, Smith stated that she did not consider herself the plaintiffs' employer at the time the videos were recorded with Rockelle. Smith told the Times that she has since obtained a permit to work with minors.