The mother of a teen YouTube star has been sued for millions by 11 teen content creators who appeared on her daughter’s channel and who claim she subjected them to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
The lawsuit, filed in January 2022, goes to trial on Monday in Los Angeles and seeks $22 million in damages, according to NBC News.
The 11 teen plaintiffs allege that Tiffany Smith, mother of YouTube star Piper Rockelle — whose YouTube channel has more than 10 million subscribers — inflicted “harassment, molestation, and abuse” on them while holding a position of “care and control” during production of content for her daughter’s channel. They also claim they were not compensated for the use of their likenesses to promote the channel.
The 147-page complaint describes Smith as a “mean-spirited control freak” who commented on their genitalia, shouted obscenities at them, urged them to be “sexy” and “sexually aggressive,” and inappropriately touched them.
One of the teens said the Smith told her she was mailing her daughter’s underwear to a man because he liked to “sniff” it.
YouTube demonetized Rockelle’s channel a month after the lawsuit was filed. While she no longer makes money from the channel, she is selling merchandise and touring to perform and meet fans, NBC said.
All 11 of the plaintiffs were once members of 15-year-old Rockelle’s “Piper Squad,” made up of children and young teens, on her channel. According to the lawsuit, the teens said they were asked to fake romantic crushes on each other for the channel.
The lawsuit also alleges that Smith sabotaged the YouTube channels of several of the plaintiffs by falsely flagging their content as “inappropriate” after they left the Squad.
NBC News spoke with six mothers of former “Squad” members. According to the complaint and those mothers, their children endured online bullying and harassment, especially as a result of those romantic storylines.
“I just want peace back with my kids,” said Ashley Anne-Rock Smith, whose two daughters appeared in 94 videos on Rockelle’s channel. They are Rockelle’s cousins.
“I want all predators who hurt young kids to be brought to justice,” she said. “I also hope we move the needle on these platforms that are allowing this.”
“As children, they don’t understand it, sometimes it goes over their heads,” said Steevy Areeco, the mother of another plaintiff. “But now they’re older and they’re starting to understand the trauma that was caused, the things that were said to them, these fake crushes.”
Areeco said that the goal for most of the parents is for some kind of guidelines in non-traditional filming environments.
YouTube does not police the behavior of its content creators — or their mothers — offline and did not comment for NBC’s story.
Tiffany Smith has countersued the plaintiff’s mothers for $30 million, alleging they are conspiring to extort money with false allegations, but she voluntarily dropped her counterclaim before the mother’s responded.
Neither Smith nor her attorney responded to NBC News, but she told the Los Angeles Times in December that she didn’t consider herself the teens’ employer but has since gotten a permit to work with minors.
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[Featured image: YouTube/Piper Rockelle]