The Linus Tech Tips controversy continued today with an apology video (embedded above) in which various company executives admitted that things at the popular hardware review channel aren't going very well right now. The company says it will be halting all video production for a week while it makes internal changes to improve the quality of its content and, following criticism that it favored speed and volume over accuracy, slow down its upload schedule.
The controversy began on June 24 with a Linus Tech Tips review of the Monoblock, an expensive prototype watercooling block. The review, conducted by LTT founder Linus Sebastian and writer Adam Sonedergard, was negative, but also flawed: They tested the device on a GeForce RTX 4090, even though it was designed for a 3090 Ti. Despite that, Sebastian refused to re-test the cooler on the proper GPU, saying it wasn't worth the expense of doing so. Making matters worse, LTT auctioned the one-of-a-kind cooler for charity when it was finished, rather than returning it to manufacturer Billet Labs as agreed.
The incident came to wider public awareness on August 14, when competing hardware channel Gamers Nexus posted a video criticizing the handling of the Monoblock review and questioning LTT's broader "accuracy, ethics, and responsibility." That prompted a written response from Sebastian, who acknowledged some "sloppiness" but defended LTT's record of transparency and accuracy. The problem with the Monoblock review wasn't the accuracy of his conclusions, he wrote, but that he "read the room wrong" in his response to criticism of LTT's process.
That did not go over well: One thread on the Linus Tech Tips subreddit entitled "Why didn't Linus just own his mistakes, apologize, and work to improve LTT's processes?" attracted more than 3,200 replies and nearly 33,000 upvotes in a single day.
Today, LTT changed tack with an apology video featuring appearances by multiple members of the company's leadership team, including CEO Terren Tong (who only took over the role six weeks ago), chief financial officer Yvonne Ho, and various department heads. The video includes widespread acknowledgement that all is not well at the site, and that accuracy has suffered as a result. There's also a direct criticism of Sebastian's handling of the Monoblock review.
"I've read the criticisms that we weren't willing to spend $500 to test a product, and as the one that manages the finance, I can tell you that couldn't be further from the truth," Ho says in the video. "Linus made a clear and egregious judgment error regarding retesting a product he felt was impractical. That was wrong, and I've told him so. He allowed his personal feelings on the matter to cloud his judgment."
Sebastian himself appears near the end of the video, admitting that he made the situation worse by reacting emotionally to complaints that he felt had become too personal. He apologized for the Monoblock situation but also, and again, defended LTT's behind-the-scenes handling of the situation, saying the site had tried to make things right with Billet Labs before the dispute became widely known. He also said that in the future, all "crisis communications" will be handled in conjunction with other members of the LTT leadership team.
"I owe you guys better, and I'm sorry," Sebastian said. "I'm also going to be spending my week [off] just refocusing, guys, on what matters most, which is bringing you guys the best damned content that we can make. It's been over 10 years—it's been almost 15—but I still love tech, I love my team, and even though our relationship is a little rocky right now, I love this community and everything that it stands for."
The reaction to the apology has not been especially positive on the LTT subreddit, where viewers have complained that the video was jokey, promoted the Linus Tech Tips store and sponsors, and was monetized, which several redditors said stands in stark contrast to Gamers Nexus, which did not monetize the videos in which it criticized LTT. The channel later turned off monetization for the apology video.
Followers also took note of a lengthy Twitter thread posted by former LTT social media manager Madison Reeve, who said she was forced to leave the company two years ago because the toxic work environment and pressure to produce content was "ruining [her] mental health." In the eyes of many on Reddit, the allegations made in the thread, which include instances of sexual harassment, make the tone of the apology video even more inappropriate.
Tong struck a more serious tone about those allegations in a statement emailed to PC Gamer.
"I was in a state of shock reading through these allegations," Tong wrote. "They aren't consistent with our company values. They are not consistent with my experience with the team in the six weeks or so that I've been here.
"We pride ourselves on maintaining a safe and inclusive environment," Tong wrote. "In addition to our existing report systems (both anonymous and otherwise) we've proactively reached out internally today to encourage members of our team to report any workplace bullying or harassment they might be experiencing so we can take quick and decisive action.
"Our HR team will be conducting a more thorough assessment of the allegations. Furthermore, we will also be hiring an outside investigator to look into the allegations and will commit to publishing the findings and implementing any corrective actions that may arise because of this."
Linus Tech Tips posted a similar statement to Twitter.
LTT is the most popular PC hardware focused channel on YouTube, but it's clear that many followers are unhappy: There are positive responses to today's YouTube video, but its 138K "likes" are paired with 104K "dislikes" at the moment. The YouTube subscriber numbers have also dipped over the past 24 hours, from 15.6 million yesterday to 15.5 million today.