In October 2016, Charles Marlowe, aka €œVegan Cheetah,€ a popular personality in the strange internet corner of vegan YouTube, went live on his vlog. Two and half hours into his four-hour broadcast, Marlowe decided to sing about a recent alleged Skype call. €œIm sorry that I didnt want to FaceTime fuck, FaceTime fuck, FaceTime fuck,€ he sang while strumming an acoustic guitar.
€œScamartist in my DMs! Trying to see my cock on a Skype call,€ the lyrics continued. €œYou were trying to show me your pussy, but I hung up the phone, because it didnt really turn me on.€
Prior to this 12-bar serenade, Marlowe gave his viewers some backstory, from his standpoint: Earlier that fall, he claimed, a woman named Anna Scanlon, another vegan YouTuber he refers to as €œAnna SCAM-lon,€ called him on Skype. (YouTubers moving over to Skype is sort of their version of sliding into DMs.) While drinking a Monster energy drink, vaping, and complaining about his dad vacuuming in the background, Marlowe told his viewers that Scanlon tried to have Skype sex with him, but he hung up before it got intimate.
€œIf I had talked to her a few times and gotten to know her, I might have been down to freak out,€ Marlowe said. €œOn a first Skype call, thats like having sex on the first date.€
While Marlowe talked, a viewer following the broadcast posted a comment telling him he could have €œconfirmed if she had a bush.€ Marlowe responded, €œThis is how the Skype call ended,€ while mimicking Scanlon lowering the phone to her crotch. €œWhen she did that I hung up,€ he said.
As the comments poured in, Marlowe appeared ready to drop the discussion, telling viewers to go to his Tumblr to learn more. But then the plot thickened: Scanlon was online too, and she wanted to join the broadcast as a guest.
€œIf you have my Skype, call my Skype. Im on,€ Scanlon said to Marlowe after joining his vlog.
€œTo be honest with you, Im logged out of Skype. Lets just talk here, Id rather do this on guesting,€ Marlowe replied.
For the next 25 minutes, Scanlon and Marlowe engaged in a split-screen back-and-forth. The exchange is dizzying and awful. She repeatedly asked him to call her Skype €” insisting that if they had Skype sex, as he claims, he would have her number in his Skype log. Marlowe refused, claiming she is associated with hackers and trying to doxx him. €œYou have nothing. You have nothing. Fuck you. Youre a creep. And youre lying big time. I want you to show the receipts,€ Scanlon said in one of her last attempts to get him to prove that they Skyped.
€œWell, I guess well have to leave it to the viewers. The burden of proof is on you, girl,€ Marlowe said before ending Scanlons guest appearance.
That was the last time Scanlon and Marlowe spoke. Now, six months later, she has filed a lawsuit against him in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging libel, defamation, and invasion of privacy. She is seeking $350,000.
Its an interesting development. Both Marlowe and Scanlon are part of a fast-growing subgenre of YouTubers who have €œdrama€ channels €” a popular style of video where users revel in combining some reportage with a lot of gossip and unsubstantiated rumors about fellow content creators. And vegan YouTubers are really, really into it. Which makes the lawsuit a sudden, real-world €” so to say €” test of what constitutes libel or defamation on such channels.
In the complaint, Scanlon says that Marlowe €œpublished on his online forum to thousands of people€ claims that €œshe solicited the opportunity for online sexual acts; performed lewd, unsolicited sexual acts online€; and called her €œdiseased,€ a €œwannabe academic,€ and a €œchronic liar.€
€œBecause [YouTube] is such a free-for-all market €” which its supposed to be €” its easier for people to overstep and commit internet libel,€ Scanlons attorney, Bruce Jaques, told BuzzFeed News. €œThe world is sorting out how to deal with this phenomenal technology. Its really a huge question.€
Jaques believes that the case could take at least six months. Some experts believe the only thing thats certain is that these sort of claims can lead to long court battles.
€œDefamation cases, theyre really, really, really difficult to prove,€ University of Southern California law professor Michael Overing told BuzzFeed News. €œThe plaintiff has to prove that the statement was false, and you have been damaged in your reputation €” she has to show that somebody shunned her.€
Marlowe and YouTube didnt return several requests for comment.
To understand how things got to this point, you need to take a step back and understand the uniquely free-wheeling dynamic of vegan YouTubers, who seem prone to more drama than most social media communities. For example, the platforms most popular vegan personality, Freelee the Banana Girl €” the moniker is a reference to her daily ritual of eating 51 bananas €” once infamously claimed that obese people got €œstuck on the stairway on 9/11 preventing fit people from getting through and surviving.€
Marlowe doesnt have nearly the reach of someone like Freelee; his channels have approximately 52,000 subscribers, while Freelee, who recently left her original channel but started a new one, has more than 700,000 subscribers. But what he lacks in reach he makes up for with his unique ability to pump out daily videos about the community. (Talking about YouTubers with bigger followings is a good way to game your videos into the coveted recommended videos sidebar. Many believe that YouTube made an algorithm change in December to actually decrease the views of these types of videos, deciding to instead promote videos that start trending on the site.)
Marlowes vlogs chronicling the drama in the vegan community usually garner him between 10,000 and 50,000 views per video. Last year, Jezebel posted a story about Marlowes recurring series, €œThe Dumbest Vegan on YouTube,€ where he slams other vegan YouTubers.
The videos include gossip such as critiques other video personalities diets, exercise regimens, and physical appearances €” like another Vegan YouTuber feeding elk meat to his dog. Then there are clips where Marlowe says he is a recovering heroin addict and a convicted felon who has been arrested more than 20 times.
Anna Scanlon told BuzzFeed News she originally joined YouTube in 2014 to fill her free time while she finished up graduate school with making videos about beauty and lifestyle. Then she got very sick €” she said her ailments included lupus and interstitial cystitis, a painful bladder condition. Instead of giving up her channel, she shifted its focus in April 2016 to talk about veganism, which she had recently adopted in hopes of improving her health.
At first, Scanlon really enjoyed the camaraderie in the community, made friends with other vegan YouTubers, and said she even watched and liked the Vegan Cheetahs videos. She said an installment of €œThe Dumbest Vegan on YouTube€ in which Marlowe trashes Freelee for advising young aspiring vegans to call €œthe authorities€ on their parents if they dont support their veganism was €œpretty good.€
Scanlon said that she wasnt really into the vegan YouTube drama. But her social profiles suggest that she found it impossible to avoid. A few months after she joined the vegan YouTube community, Scanlon says she also joined a closed Facebook group for vegans called the The Nut Milk Crew. Marlowe wasnt a part of the group, but this is where his feud with Scanlon really begins.
In September 2016, after receiving screenshots of activity in the Facebook group, Marlowe published a video, since taken down but shared with BuzzFeed News, claiming the members were conspiring against him. He showed comments from members discussing his criminal history, including an arrest for breaking into a warehouse and stealing golf clubs to finance his heroin addiction €” an incident he himself had not previously discussed on his YouTube channel. He also showed Scanlon commenting negatively about one of his videos, calling her a €œpsychotic witch.€
After Marlowe published his video outing the Facebook group, other vegan YouTubers lashed out against him and got the video taken down by alleging privacy violations. Scanlon says she filed one of those claims against Marlowe with YouTube €” BuzzFeed News asked her for a copy €” but she never heard back. She also said she filed a bullying complaint with YouTube about the video of him singing, but never heard back. BuzzFeed News has reached out to YouTube for comment several times about this.
Then, a little more than a month later, Marlowe went live on his vlog with his comments about the alleged Skype sex.
Scanlon told BuzzFeed News that after her guest appearance on the vlog, she received repeated threats and harassment from Marlowes audience €” including several anti-Semitic remarks. For instance, Scanlon was sent comments and others were posted to her YouTube videos such as €œWhat are you doing on YouTube, you should be preparing to get back in the oven€ and €œYour family should have died in the Holocaust.€
Meanwhile, Marlowe continued to discuss his claims online. During a guest appearance in February on the vlog of the Vegan Traveler, another vegan YouTuber, the host asked Marlowe if he stood by what he said about Scanlon.
€œWhy did you say those things about Anna?€ Marlowe is asked.
€œAbout what, that she tried to sexually harass me on Skype? Why did I say those things?€ Marlowe responded. €œBecause, she had denounced me in some of the worst ways possible and I thought her viewers should know what shes really about.€
Vegan Traveler then asked: €œSo you stand by those comments?€
€œI stand by those comments,€ Marlowe said.
€œI had kind of decided to let it go. Then I heard him say that,€ Scanlon said. €œThen I googled myself, and I saw that the second result was Anna Scanlon accused of offering sex.€
After this, Scanlon emailed Marlowe a cease-and-desist letter. She asked Marlowe to rescind his comments and delete them to avoid a lawsuit.
€œI am in contact with a lawyer who has advised me that in the state of California, I can garnish your wages for 25% until you end pay the entirety of whatever damages the court has ruled fit. If you think this is a joke, I will provide you further evidence,€ the letter, which was provided to BuzzFeed News, reads.
But the only response she received from him was being blocked on social media. €œIt seems he thinks he is not in contempt of the law and would rather play hardball,€ Scanlon said in a video.
In early March 2017, she announced that she was starting a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to sue Marlowe. €œ[Marlowe] made the false claim that I cheated on my partner and exposed myself to him via Skype,€ she said in a video about the campaign. €œAdditionally, he followed me into chats, made fun of my [illnesses], and generally laughed at my hurt and the anguish this caused me.€ So far, the campaign has raised more than $11,000 on GoFundMe. With enough to pay half of her attorneys retainer fee, Scanlon filed the complaint at the end of April.
Scanlons attorney said that Marlowe has not been served the legal papers €” they didnt realize his full name is Charles Marlowe-Cremedas, which is not how its listed in the original documents €” but they expect to serve him by the end of the first week of May.
However, in his videos, Marlowe made it obvious that he knows about the case.
€œYoure not going to intimidate me. Ill fucking meet every single court date. Ive already looked into it. I know how to respond immediately once I get served. Try serving me. Its going to be difficult. I dont think its going to be as easy as you think it is. But try serving me papers,€ Marlowe said in a recent video.
€œAnd well just have to see where it goes. Again, I dont think its ever going to see the light of day,€ he added, laughing. €œYou really cant make this shit up in a book. This only happens on vegan YouTube.€
But Scanlons attorney said that he wouldnt rule out the impact of a retraction from Marlowe, which could €œdenature the suit.€
€œIf you post a retraction so that everyone could see it as prominently as you posted the original, theres a question of payment of attorneys fees, but usually the case can go away,€ Jaques said. The videos where Marlowe sings the song, discussed the Skype sex allegations, and has Scanlon on as a guest are still live, but are €œunlisted€ €” you need to enter the link to see them and cant search for them.
If Scanlon sees this lawsuit through, shell be opening herself up to to a long and invasive legal battle. It €œgives the defendant a chance to go through your underwear drawer to see if your reputation was damaged,€ Overing, the law professor, said.
So, if Marlowe rescinded his comments, deleted all the videos, and apologized for the whole thing, would Scanlon drop the case?
€œI dont know at this point. Its already gone too far with the money. Weve already paid the lawyer,€ Scanlon said.
€œI mean, I gave him a chance.€