A money-making scheme aimed at young men that helped “extreme misogynist” Andrew Tate go viral on social media has closed.
Hustler’s University, an online academy for fans of Tate promising to help them earn thousands of pounds, has shut its affiliate marketing programme, saying it has “no future”.
The programme had enabled Tate’s followers to earn commissions for signing up new members and encouraged them to post videos of him to get as many referrals as possible.
It led to thousands of videos of the former kickboxer and reality star being posted on social media, generating thousands of referrals and propelling Tate to viral fame.
Widely shared content included videos of him saying women are a man’s property, rape victims are to blame for their own assaults, and talking about hitting and choking women, trashing their belongings and stopping them from going out. In another, he described how he would deal with a woman who accused him of cheating: “It’s bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck. Shut up bitch.” Advocacy groups and women’s charities described the material as “extreme misogyny” and said it risked radicalising young men.
An Observer investigation earlier this month revealed how followers were explicitly encouraged to create “arguments” and “war” by posting deliberately controversial clips that would attract high engagement and views, thus generating more Hustler’s University signups. On TikTok, where videos of him were widely pushed to young users by the algorithm, content tagged with Tate’s name has been watched more than 12bn times.
The closure of the affiliate programme signifies the loss of a key revenue stream for Tate and comes as membership statistics for Hustler’s University, which costs £36 a month, show it currently has about 109,000 members, down from 127,000 two weeks ago. A post in the Hustler’s Community online forum told members not to worry about the closure of the affiliate scheme, adding that an “exciting” update to the platform was coming soon.
Social media firms have taken action to reduce the spread of Tate’s content in recent weeks. TikTok users say they are now being shown fewer videos of him, and many accounts have been banned. TikTok said: “Misogyny is a hateful ideology that is not tolerated on TikTok. We’ve been removing violative videos and accounts for weeks, and we welcome the news that other platforms are also taking action against this individual.”
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said on Friday it had removed Tate’s official accounts for violating its policies on dangerous organisations and individuals. Tate had 4.7 million Instagram followers at the time his account was removed, up from about 1 million in June.
The action by the social platforms has sparked allegations of censorship from fans, with Tate saying: “Banning me only inspires more internet hate mobs and more division. This will become a weapon of attack for different points of view for the foreseeable future.”
But it has been welcomed by anti-extremism groups that warned his material risked radicalising young audiences. Joe Mulhall, director of research at Hope Not Hate, a UK advocacy group, said: “Tate poses a genuine threat to young men, radicalising them towards extremism misogyny, racism and homophobia.” In a post in the Discord server for Hustler’s University on 15 August, a community leader told members that a decision had been taken to close the affiliate marketing scheme, saying that “although it was very successful it had a few issues”.
The post claimed a reason for its closure was that Tate content had been “used out of context and in bad taste by many students desperate to get attention to their profiles”, leading to social media platforms taking action.
However, instructions for members, which have since been deleted, show they were explicitly advised to post controversial content to get high views and engagement.
One guide for students said attracting “comments and controversy” was the key to success on TikTok, adding: “What you ideally want is a mix of 60-70% fans and 40-30% haters. You want arguments, you want war.”
Earlier this month Stripe, the payment provider, is understood to have pulled out of processing digital payments for Hustler’s University. On 10 August a “professor” (senior member) in the Hustler’s University community posted: “Unfortunately Stripe is down right now. Your links will no longer be able to collect payments.”
Stripe said it didn’t comment on individual cases, but its policy bars certain types of financial activities, including “get rich quick schemes”. Members of Hustler’s University, including boys as young as 13, had been told they could earn up to £10,000 a month through lessons on crypto investing and drop shipping, and by recruiting others through the affiliate programme.
Tate told the Observer it was a “massive shame” he had been removed by Instagram and urged it to reinstate him. He said “internet sensationalism” had “purported the idea that im [sic] anti women when nothing could be further from the truth”, adding that he has donated to charities benefiting women.
“It is very unfortunate that old videos of me, where I was playing a comedic character, have been taken out of context and amplified to the point where people believe absolutely false narratives about me,” he said. “I am genuinely innocent. I truly believe God will prevail.”
He did not immediately comment on the closure of the affiliate marketing programme but said previous criticisms, including claims it was a pyramid scheme, were “all false”.
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