After a meteoric rise, it’s a sharp fall.
Andrew Tate, that bald cigar-smoking guy you might have seen in the news, has been kicked off Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
- Videos of the influencer’s extreme misogyny have been viewed billions of times
- Experts say he was able to “game” social media algorithms through affiliate marketing
- The “pyramid scheme” targeted vulnerable young men
The 35-year-old has shot to online fame in recent months for his extremely misogynistic comments, provoking calls to deplatform him.
Not only has Tate’s personal account been disabled on TikTok, but the platform will try to scrub any copycat clips of his content.
Videos tagged #AndrewTate have racked up more than 12 billion views.
So how did he get so popular, so fast?
And is this the end for Tate?
More searched than the PM
Last month, Tate generated more Google searches than Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian combined.
In Australia, these same search trends show that he was relatively unknown before April 3, but had surpassed Anthony Albanese by mid-June.
Then interest kept going up: he’s now way ahead of the Prime Minister.
Tate, a former kickboxer, is the kind of figure the “manosphere” regularly produces, says Joshua Roose, an extremism researcher at Deakin University.
“He’s basically making money by marketing misogyny,” he said.
The manosphere refers to a collection of websites, podcasts, and forums that serve as a locker room for toxic masculinity, where men gripe about all the bad things being done to them by women.
Sometimes, an influencer within this world gets famous enough to enter the mainstream. Previous examples include Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, American poker player Dan Bilzerian, and the blogger and former pick-up artist Daryush Valizadeh (known as Roosh V).
“Tate is just the latest manifestation,” Dr Roose said.
“There’s always a charlatan out there — there’s always someone who’s prepared to commoditise social media and polarisation for their own profit.”
But Tate is also unlike the other manosphere figures: His social media marketing machine has been far more sophisticated.
At its heart is a campaign of affiliate marketing targeting young men.
A ‘pyramid scheme’ of promotional videos
Tate rose to prominence on the back of ‘Hustlers University’.
The $50 per month subscription program consisted of private Discord servers featuring lessons for entrepreneurial schemes, from copywriting to crypto investing to dropshipping.
Among these schemes was affiliate marketing, where a person earns money by promoting a product.
If you’ve ever watched an unboxing video, or a product review, and been asked to click on the custom link beneath the video to buy the product, that’s affiliate marketing.
In this case, the product that was being sold was Andrew Tate’s Hustlers University. The students were promoting their own course and teacher.
Tate’s followers flooded TikTok, Youtube and Instagram with videos promoting both Tate and the program, so they’d get a cut of the $50 sign-up fee.
“It has all the hallmarks of a pyramid scheme,” Daniel Angus, a professor of digital communications at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), said.
“It’s about utilising a particular mechanism of affiliate marketing in order to game an algorithm.”
Paul Harrigan, an expert in digital marketing and social media at the University of Western Australia, agreed.
“It’s very much a pyramid scheme system,” he said.
“People up the top with a high engagement rate will be making a profit for sure.”
“From a marketing side it’s quite innovative to get people to pay to be part of a network, because then they feel invested and feel part of it and a lot of them are working for free.”
Savvy marketing plus viral misogyny
Armed with a scheme to game platform algorithms, Tate then set about getting people’s attention.
He did this through misogynistic, polarising commentary, like advocating violence against women, or stopping them from going out with friends.
This was straight from the men’s rights playbook, said Dr Roose.
“What combines them is this deep-seated hatred of women and deep-seated sense of lost entitlement,” he said.
“Their message is that more needs to be done to empower men and women need to be domesticated and return to the home.”
“It’s about this idea that everything is a war. Men are warriors and women are there for sex.”
And the strategy worked.
By mid-July, Tate was the subject of more Google searches than Kim Kardashian.
Videos of him sharing misogynistic rhetoric were being liked and shared millions of times across platforms.
This fame snowballed into more promotion.
By then, thousands of affiliate marketers and other manosphere influencers had an economic stake in Tate’s celebrity.
By August, Hustlers University reportedly had tens of thousands of members.
“It’s more than fandom,” Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez, a digital media expert at QUT, said.
“There’s an economic interest and ideological interest in being part of this network and making someone succeed.”
Young men the target
Tate simply provided the content for others to push.
In his videos, he poses with cars, guns and swords and portrays himself as a cigar-smoking playboy.
Though he claims this is him playing a “comedic character”, the former kickboxer has a history of violence against women.
In 2016, he was forced to leave the Big Brother UK house after a video of him whipping a woman with a belt surfaced.
Domestic violence groups have grown increasingly worried that Tate’s misogyny could influence young minds.
Young men in single-sex boys’ schools were “particularly vulnerable,” Dr Roose said.
“Young men in male-dominated institutions may feel drawn to this material — it may be seen as the forbidden fruit,” he said.
“We know cases of boys accessing him through TikTok and social media and then spreading his message into schoolyards.”
Tate’s flashy, high-flying aesthetic was part of his appeal, he added.
“What lies at the heart of it is a fundamental insecurity about the role of men in the world and sense that women are doing better than men.”
Tate’s success will encourage others
Tate’s money-making empire is now in the process of being unwound.
Over the weekend, Tate shut down the Hustlers University affiliate marketing program, saying it has “no future”.
The program is still offering courses, but there’s no longer a monetary incentive for students to rope in others.
Though this was a setback for Tate, it did not stop others copying his brand of rival misogyny, Dr Harrigan said.
Social media algorithms will continue to push any kind of controversial, highly engaging content (even if it’s extremely misogynistic), and many users will continue to demand this content.
“Part of the issue is why is there demand for this content?” he said.
Google-owned YouTube, which is particularly popular with manosphere influencers, has not deplatformed Tate.
TikTok only booted Tate after his videos had been viewed more than 12 billion times and driven engagement.
Tate’s success will encourage others, Dr Roose said.
“There is a certain momentum to the movement of manosphere groups.”
Dr Fernandez agreed.
This may be the end for Tate, but the beginning for his copycats.
“The network is there and the people craving this kind of content is there. It’s been building for a long time,” she said.
“It’s partly facilitated by how these platforms work.
“They’re designed to draw people’s attention and if you have visibility, if you have subscribers, then you earn money.”