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PewDiePie vs T-Series

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PewDiePie vs T-Series
PewDiePie at PAX 2015
T-Series' logo
Date2018–19
TypeWord-of-mouth marketing, advertising, website support, slogans, activism, hacking, spamming, minor civil disobedience, more
MotiveSupport of PewDiePie or T-Series, public competition/rivalry about being the most subscribed YouTube channel
OutcomeT-Series overtook PewDiePie as the most subscribed channel on YouTube and became the first channel to reach 100 million subscribers.

PewDiePie vs T-Series was an online competition between two YouTube channels, PewDiePie (run by Felix Kjellberg) and T-Series (an Indian record company run by Bhushan Kumar) for the title of the most-subscribed channel on YouTube,[note 1] which was ultimately won by T-Series.[2] T-Series has held the title of most-viewed channel since early 2017, and PewDiePie had been the most-subscribed channel since 2013. T-Series had temporarily overtaken PewDiePie on numerous occasions in 2019, and on 27 March 2019,[3] it became the most subscribed channel for five consecutive days before PewDiePie retook the lead. After that, PewDiePie held the lead for 2 weeks, before T-Series passed him permanently, reaching 100 million subscribers on 29 May 2019.

Many YouTubers have voiced their support for PewDiePie, including MrBeast, Markiplier, Jacksepticeye, Captain Sparklez and Logan Paul. Many of PewDiePie's fans have made efforts to gain subscribers for his channel through numerous methods such as through organised marches and supportive YouTube videos. Supporters of PewDiePie often use the slogan "Subscribe to PewDiePie". The activism of some PewDiePie supporters has extended beyond legal grounds; vandalism, hackings of websites, social media accounts, personal devices and the creation of malware have taken place in order to tell people to subscribe. "Bitch Lasagna", a diss track by PewDiePie, and use of anti-Indian remarks by fans of PewDiePie led to several prominent Indian YouTubers to publicly oppose PewDiePie and back T-Series with YouTube videos and response diss tracks. On 28 April, PewDiePie released a video calling for his supporters to end their efforts to keep him as the most subscribed channel, and with the significant lead now held by T-Series, along with both channels surpassing 100 million subscribers, the competition is generally presumed to have ended.

Background

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, known online as PewDiePie, is a Swedish YouTuber who makes comedy and video commentary videos. He has previously been known for his Let's Play videos. PewDiePie's channel had the most subscribers from 2013 until 22 February 2019, when he was finally surpassed by T-Series, although PewDiePie took back the top spot shortly after approximately 8 minutes.[4][5] He has over 101 million subscribers, 23 billion views, and 3,900 uploaded videos as of September 2019.[6] He refers to his fan base as the "9-year-old army".[7]

T-Series is an Indian music record label and film production company. On YouTube, it has a multi-channel network consisting of 29 channels (excluding Lahari music),[8] run by a team of 13 people.[9] The main T-Series channel primarily contains Indian music videos (Bollywood music and Indi-pop) as well as Bollywood film trailers, and uploads several videos every day, and has uploaded 13.7 thousand videos as of August 2019.[9][10][11] T-Series became the most-viewed channel on YouTube in February 2017,[12] having over 81 billion views as of September 2019.[13] As of September 2019, T-Series' main channel has over 111 million subscribers and is the most subscribed channel on YouTube, making it the first YouTube channel to reach 100 million subscribers.[13]

Timeline of subscriber audits and overtakings

Since 22 February 2019, the daily subscriber increases and overall subscriber counts of PewDiePie and T-Series have converged and T-Series has frequently surpassed PewDiePie in subscribers for short periods of time. The subscriber gap is currently above 10 million as of September 2019 and is generally trending in T-Series' favour.[14] The following is a list of notable times when T-Series surpassed PewDiePie as of 26 April 2019 (UTC):[15][16]

# Date Time (UTC) Notes
1 22 February 2019 20:04 – 20:12 A routine audit caused PewDiePie to lose 22,000 subscribers.[4][5]
2 9 March 2019 14:19 – 14:24 T-Series overtook PewDiePie for five minutes.[17]
3 11 March 2019 05:09 – 05:27 T-Series took a small lead after a routine YouTube audit.[18]
4 13 March 2019 03:35 – 03:57 T-Series suddenly took a 4,000 subscriber lead, which lasted for 10 seconds before Pewdiepie gains 11k subscribers in the audit.[19]
5 19 March 2019 09:51 – 09:53 T-Series surpassed PewDiePie four times with short leads.[20]
6 20 March 2019 18:32 – 19:20 T-Series surpassed PewDiePie with an 11,972-subscriber lead after a routine audit, in which PewDiePie lost 2,700 subscribers and T-Series gains 10,700 subscribers.[21][22]
7 21 March 2019 04:31 – 16:08 T-Series surpassed PewDiePie with a 34,000 subscriber lead and held it for eleven and half hours (which was the longest pass at the time), after which PewDiePie regained the top spot.[23][24]
8 22 March 2019 09:22 – 09:22; 10:20; 11:35 – 11:46 T-Series surpassed PewDiePie on multiple occasions with small leads.[25]
9 22 March 2019 18:16 – 18:45 A routine audit caused PewDiePie to lose 4,000 subscribers.[25][26]
10 25 March 2019 07:35 – 22:44 After the lead switching numerous times, T-Series took a lead, peaking at 19,000 subscribers at approximately 18:15. This lead stood for fifteen hours and nine minutes, after which PewDiePie regained his top spot. PewDiePie was held back by a routine audit that gave T-Series a 4,000-subscriber lead.[25]
11 26 March 2019 08:00 – 22:40 PewDiePie lost the top position for approximately one minute before recovering, but T-Series took back the top spot for 14 hours and 40 minutes in total, peaking at around 19,000 subscribers.[25]
12 27 March 2019 at 04:30 – 1 April 2019 at 12:03 T-Series took back the lead with the subscriber gap peaking at over 37,000 subscribers. PewDiePie, however, was unable to close the gap, causing T-Series to hold the lead for over 24 hours. As the lead entered its second consecutive day, T-Series' lead over PewDiePie peaked at over 65,000 subscribers. A subscriber audit on PewDiePie further stretched the lead. Entering the third day of the streak, T-Series's lead over PewDiePie reached a high of over 96,000 subscribers. On the fourth day, the subscriber gap between T-Series and PewDiePie reached over 110,000.[25][27] The subscriber gap dwindled between T-Series and PewDiePie as PewDiePie released a video called "Congratulations": a diss track and a thank you to his subscribers. At 12:03 on 1 April, PewDiePie took the lead, growing rapidly with over 400 subscribers a minute.[28][25] The subscriber gap peaked on 8 April 2019 at 512,000 subscribers, before dropping at a rate of 200 subscribers a minute, and the subscriber gap converged at an average rate of 46 subscribers per minute.[11][29]
13 14 April 2019 at 07:59 – present T-Series takes back the lead which in turn made the subscriber gap increase by approximately 140 subscribers per minute since the passing. The gap went over 100,000 subscribers in favour of T-Series for the second time at 09:02 UTC on 15 April. On 19 April, T-Series uploaded "Slowly Slowly", a song by Guru Randhawa featuring American rapper Pitbull,[30] which further increased the gap. T-Series had managed to stretch this lead further as of 7 May 2019, stretching it to over 2 million subscribers at 14:49 BST, and is stretching it further to above 10 million.[31]
Bonus 29 May 2019 at 10:17 T-Series reached 100 million subscribers, becoming the first YouTube channel to reach this milestone.[32]
Bonus 25 August 2019 at 02:01 PewDiePie reached 100 million subscribers, becoming the second YouTube channel and the first individual YouTuber to reach this milestone.[33]

Activism

Support of PewDiePie

By YouTubers

The first prominent YouTuber to support PewDiePie was MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson), who bought billboards and radio advertisements in North Carolina urging people to subscribe to PewDiePie's channel.[34] He also created a video of himself saying "PewDiePie" 100,000 times in a period of over 12 hours.[35] MrBeast and his friends attended Super Bowl LIII, wearing T-shirts reading "Sub 2 PewDiePie". The group was prominently displayed in an ESPN tweet after Stephen Gostkowski had missed a field goal during the 1st quarter.[36][37]

Other prominent YouTubers have publicly campaigned for subscribing to PewDiePie, while others such as Markiplier, Jacksepticeye and Logan Paul have made videos or tweets announcing their support for PewDiePie in the competition, often under the slogan, "Subscribe to PewDiePie".[38][39][36][40] YouTuber Justin Roberts, a member of the group Team 10, bought a billboard in New York's Times Square saying the same.[41][42] Markiplier made a tongue-in-cheek live stream titled "I literally won't shut up until you subscribe to PewDiePie" telling his viewers to subscribe to PewDiePie's channel.[39][41][42] Jacksepticeye did a live stream telling his viewers to subscribe to PewDiePie's channel and jokingly threatened to delete his channel if T-Series surpasses PewDiePie.[37]

Smaller Youtubers have also promoted PewDiePie. In reaction to MrBeast's advertising campaign, Saimandar Waghdhare, an independent Indian YouTuber with the channel "Saiman Says", responded to MrBeast's advertising campaign by posting a sarcastic video in which he pretends to support T-Series. However, he later released a video in which he declares his support to PewDiePie.[43] Musician Davie504 flew from Hong Kong to Noida and played "Bitch Lasagna", PewDiePie's diss track against T-Series, outside their headquarters on a bass guitar.[44]

YouTube Rewind 2018: Everyone Controls Rewind, the 2018 video edition of the annual YouTube recap, became the most-disliked video on the platform after a heavy backlash. One of the cited reasons for the criticism was the lack of coverage of the competition between PewDiePie and T-Series.[45] YouTuber Jaiden Animations, however, had contributed to the video, and her animation includes several hidden icons and objects related to PewDiePie.[46]

Hackings

A hacker under the pseudonym "HackerGiraffe" sent print jobs to around 50,000 vulnerable printers in November, and another hacker under the pseudonym "j3ws3r" did the same to around 80,000 printers in December.[47][48][49] Messages were printed out saying "PewDiePie is in trouble and he needs your help to defeat T-Series!" and urging printer users to subscribe to PewDiePie, unsubscribe from T-Series, and fix their printer. HackerGiraffe claimed that he had discovered more than 800,000 vulnerable printers using the search engine Shodan used for finding vulnerable devices.[42][50] In January 2019, more than 65,000 of Google’s Chromecast streaming dongles were hacked by HackerGiraffe and j3ws3r, displaying a message on smart TVs urging people to subscribe to PewDiePie and adjust their security settings.[51][52] However, despite positive feedback from some people, one of the hackers anonymously revealed to the BBC that he suffered a breakdown due to the prospect of facing jail time and angry messages urging him to commit suicide. Both hackers are in hiding, but do not regret their decisions due to a lower number of vulnerable printers which they believe is due to their hack.[53] Also in January, dozens of Nest Cameras were compromised by a hacker under the pseudonym "SydeFX" using credential stuffing, who spoke to victims through the cameras, demanding they subscribe to PewDiePie.[54]

Hacking was not limited to hardware. In December 2018, one of the Wall Street Journal's websites was hacked to display a message apologising for articles accusing PewDiePie of anti-Semitism and to tell readers to subscribe to his channel.[42][50] The hacker j3ws3r also took down T-Series' website with a denial-of-service attack.[49] In February 2019, Bob Buckhorn, the mayor of Tampa, Florida, had his Twitter account hacked to post many malicious tweets one of these being to encourage users to subscribe to PewDiePie.[55] On 22 March 2019, a user on the PewDiePie subreddit developed ransomware by the name PewCrypt that encrypted files on Microsoft Windows machines. The attacker claimed he would release an encryption key when PewDiePie hit the 100 million Subscriber milestone, however, the author claimed that if T-Series claims that goal first, the encryption tool would be deleted permanently.[56]

Other activism

The UK Independence Party announced their support for PewDiePie in a tweet.[57][58]

On 27 February 2019, Basketball Club Žalgiris based in Kaunas, Lithuania, had cheerleaders performing to "Bitch Lasagna" during a time-out.[59]

Several marches were held in support of PewDiePie. On 27 February 2019, a parade was held in Tallinn, Estonia in support of PewDiePie. Up to several hundreds of people took part in the march, which went through Tallinn's Old Town and other busy areas of the city centre.[60][61] During the 2019 India–Pakistan standoff, T-Series removed the music of Pakistani pop artists from its channel. In response, there was a march in Pakistan where protesters held signs reading "Unsubscribe T-Series" and expressed support for PewDiePie.[62] On 10 March 2019, a rally was held in Moscow for internet freedom, coordinated by the Libertarian Party of Russia. During the rally protesters played "Bitch Lasagna" and held signs which read "Sub to PewDiePie".[63][64]

On 12 March 2019, indie game developer Thomas Brush released a video game on Ichi.io based on PewDiePie vs T-Series called Zero Deaths, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where PewDiePie must defend Marzia Bisognin, his fiancée, from fake YouTube subscribers known as "sub bots".[65]

On 29 April 2019, a plane flew over New York City with a banner attached saying “Subscribe to PewDiePie”.[66] More than 21,000 people watched PewDiePie's live stream on DLive showing the plane with its banner fly over Lower Manhattan.[66] During the live stream, PewDiePie said that the event was "a nice little wrap up" to the Subscribe to PewDiePie meme.[66] The flight and banner, which cost more than $4,500, were crowdfunded by PewDiePie's fanbase.[66]

Association with criminal acts

Although PewDiePie told his supporters not to do "anything illegal" in their activism,[61] some rogue activists committed criminal acts of vandalism to spread the "Subscribe to PewDiePie" meme. In March 2019, the Brooklyn War Memorial was vandalized with graffiti saying "Subscribe to PewDiePie".[61] The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation said that they would remove it.[67] PewDiePie later condemned the action,[40][68] and said that he had made a donation to the park.[69] Another vandalism case occurred two days prior when "SUB 2 pewdiepie" was written on a school in Oxford, United Kingdom.[70]

In the moments leading up to 15 March 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings, the perpetrator said, "Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie", as he live-streamed the shootings.[71] PewDiePie tweeted in response: "Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch. I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy."[68][72] Those who had helped to popularize the meme, like Ethan Klein, were repulsed that the phrase had been used as a call to arms by the attacker, and urged people to stop spreading the meme, hoping that it would die out.[73]

The perpetrator of 27 April 2019 Poway synagogue shooting also mentioned PewDiePie,[74] claiming without evidence that the shooting was planned and financed by PewDiePie.[75]

Following the 2019 Christchurch shootings, Kevin Roose of The New York Times wrote that "the [perpetrator's] goal, if there was one" behind saying "subscribe to PewDiePie" during his livestream of the attack, "may have been to pull a popular internet figure into a fractious blame game and inflame political tensions everywhere."[76] CNN-News18 further cautions that the shooter's intended consequence was that people who hate PewDiePie would be inclined to blame PewDiePie rather than the shooter in order to "further [the accusers'] political agenda." [77]

Support of T-Series

The rivalry between PewDiePie and T-Series got more attention in India after controversial actions by PewDiePie and his fans. PewDiePie's "Bitch Lasagna" diss track contained some derogatory lyrics about Indian people that some Indians found offensive. Many of PewDiePie's fans have engaged in negatively spamming and trolling the T-Series channel,[78] which included swarming T-Series' videos with PewDiePie-related comments, disliking videos, and flagging their videos with false reports.[79] A number of PewDiePie's fans and supporters have also been making anti-Indian remarks and using racial slurs.[80][81] This has led to several independent Indian YouTubers announcing their opposition to PewDiePie and support for T-Series.[81][80]

In November 2018, Indian-Canadian comedian and YouTuber Jus Reign uploaded a video called "In Defense of T-Series", where he talks about T-Series, mentions his childhood listening to their music, and shows a short music video at the end celebrating T-Series.[82]

In response to PewDiePie's "Bitch Lasagna" diss track, several Indian YouTubers responded with their own Hindi-language diss tracks against PewDiePie. Tatva K released his diss track "Pew Ki Pie" in November 2018, followed by Asif Bantaye releasing his diss track "PENDUBHAI" in December 2018. On 1 January 2019, CarryMinati, a PUBG player and one of India's top ten YouTubers, released a diss track called "Bye PewDiePie", which garnered nearly 5 million views within 24 hours.[81][80]

Responses

PewDiePie

In August 2018, PewDiePie posted a video titled "this channel will overtake PewDiePie" in which he jokingly rallied his fans against T-Series. The video also referenced the KSI vs. Logan Paul YouTube boxing match, which similarly involved a rivalry between two major YouTubers.[79]

On 5 October 2018, PewDiePie—in collaboration with Party In Backyard—posted a diss track against T-Series, titled "Bitch Lasagna".[41][83] The title of the song is in reference to a viral Facebook Messenger screenshot, in which an Indian man, in broken English, demands nude photos of a Western woman, and when his requests remain unanswered, refers to her as "bitch lasagna".[84] In the song, he throws insults towards T-Series and their video contents, makes references to contemporary Indian stereotypes and accused the company of using sub bots to gain false subscriptions.[85][86]

After he was asked about his "serious opinions" about the situation, PewDiePie said: "I don't really care about T-Series, I genuinely don't, but I think if YouTube does shift in a way where it does feel more corporate, [then] something else will take its place. I think people enjoy this connection so much, I think something else will just show up, if it feels too corporate."[87] He also blamed YouTube for a lack of support toward individual YouTubers.[34] Speaking to Metro in November 2018, PewDiePie said that he was, "surprised no one has stepped up sooner", referring to T-Series competing for the most-subscribed spot.[88]

In December 2018, as the gap between the numbers of subscribers rapidly shrank, multiple high-profile YouTubers posted videos supporting him. PewDiePie made a video the next day calling for his viewers to support the Indian non-governmental organization Child Rights and You, in response to some of his fans' anti-Indian sentiment. He raised £173,682, including a donation by Minecraft creator Markus Persson, and also ran a charity live stream the next day.[39][89]

On 3 February 2019, PewDiePie live-streamed himself playing Fortnite on YouTube to try and stop T-Series from surpassing him.[90] A week later, PewDiePie did another live stream in an attempt to stay ahead of T-Series, this time playing Roblox. His account was then deleted by Roblox, reportedly because of his past behavior. PewDiePie's account was restored the next day and Roblox said that he was "incorrectly banned".[91][92] On 17 February 2019, PewDiePie did a third live stream of himself playing minigames in Minecraft in another attempt to stay ahead of T-Series.[93]

On 27 March 2019, T-Series surpassed PewDiePie. Following this, PewDiePie announced through both Twitter and YouTube that the "winner" of this competition would be whoever reached 100 million subscribers first.[94][95][better source needed] On 31 March 2019, PewDiePie posted another diss track: an upbeat synth-pop/hip-hop music video with YouTubers Roomie, Boyinaband, and MrBeast titled "Congratulations", which sarcastically congratulated T-Series for surpassing him.[40][96][97] In the music video, PewDiePie mocks the topic of how T-Series sent him a cease and desist letter alleging that his actions and lyrics of "Bitch Lasagna" were defamatory. The video also criticizes T-Series for alleged tax evasion and the fact that the company was founded through the selling of pirated songs. The video, noted by the solemn tone, thanks his fans for sticking with him through his YouTube career and references past notable videos.[96][40] Following PewDiePie's upload of the song, he regained the number one spot.[98][99]

On 28 April 2019, PewDiePie requested in a video that his viewers end the "Subscribe to PewDiePie" meme, saying that "This movement started out of love and support, so let’s end it with that."[100] PewDiePie also further condemned the actions of the Christchurch shooter in the video, saying "to have my name associated with something so unspeakably vile has affected me in more ways than I've let shown ... I just didn't want to address it right away, and I didn't want to give the terrorist more attention. I didn't want to make it about me, because I don't think it has anything to do with me. To put it plainly, I didn't want hate to win ... But it’s clear to me now the 'Subscribe to PewDiePie' movement should have ended then."[100]

T-Series

In September 2018, T-Series president and head of its digital division Neeraj Kalyan said "It's a matter of pride for all Indians that an Indian YouTube Channel will soon be world's biggest channel on YouTube".[101] He also responded to PewDiePie fans by stating that "No amount of spamming will be able to hold back the power of good music."[102] Kalyan further added that the channel's overseas viewership has increased as a result of the subscriber race, stating that "people in the West, or in the East as far as Japan were not even aware of us. They now know about us because of all that controversy."[8]

T-Series chairman and managing director Bhushan Kumar, son of late founder Gulshan Kumar, told the BBC in December 2018 that he had previously never heard of PewDiePie until "a few months ago".[9] Bhushan Kumar said he's "really not bothered about this race" and followed up with "I don't even know why PewDiePie is taking this so seriously." He added that they "are not competing with him."[42] In February 2019, Kumar was reported by The Washington Post to have said that "Everybody knows T-Series across the world now. If we had become number one on our own, nobody would have known about us."[58]

On 6 March 2019, Kumar tweeted that T-Series is "on the brink of becoming the world's biggest @YouTube channel. We can make history. We can make India win. Subscribe to @TSeries", posting a video encouraging Indians to subscribe to T-Series' channel. In the video, he stated that "this is a historic movement for all of us, so let's come together and subscribe to T-Series’ YouTube channel and make India proud." PewDiePie responded by saying that T-Series is "getting desperate".[103][104]

In April 2019, T-Series sought a court order from the Delhi High Court to remove PewDiePie's diss tracks from YouTube. Despite Kjellberg's statement that these diss tracks were "done in good fun", the court issued a temporary injunction in favour of T-Series on 8 April 2019. The complaint against Kjellberg claimed that his songs were "defamatory, disparaging, insulting, and offensive," and noted that comments on the videos were "abusive, vulgar, and also racist in nature." Access to the diss tracks on YouTube was blocked in India.[105][106]

YouTube

YouTube Asia Pacific's managing director Gautam Anand told The New York Times: "As more and more of India came along, video became the way that they were interacting with the internet. 85 percent of India's internet users use YouTube. Even if you're not literate, you still enjoy watching video."[107] Anand has also said: "India is a really great bright spot. It's one of the fastest-growing markets even within Asia."[8]

On 13 December 2018, YouTube removed a large number of bot and inactive subscribers from the platform. As a result, PewDiePie lost over 40,000 subscribers and T-Series lost more than 200,000 subscribers from its main channel.[108]

Media analysis

The rivalry has been described as a "David vs Goliath" because T-Series is a multi-channel network that can create multiple videos a day, whereas PewDiePie is an independent, standalone channel.[109][110][111][112] Anthony Cuthbertson of The Independent has described it as a shift in how established media companies viewed YouTube in 2018.[87] Writing in The Guardian, Nosheen Iqbal described T-Series as "a challenger from the streets of Delhi", in reference to the origins of its founder Gulshan Kumar, who was a fruit juice seller when he founded the company.[42]

Vox's Aja Romano says that this competition represents the growing divide of subcultures on YouTube—on one side are the creators who have developed their own channels over the course of YouTube's history, and on the other side sit corporations who use YouTube as a platform to advertise their shows from external platforms.[113]

Patricia Hernandez of The Verge compared the rivalry to the KSI vs Logan Paul YouTube boxing match. She described PewDiePie's antagonism as "all for show" and stated that "rivalries play a huge role on YouTube because they give viewers narratives where pseudo-heroes and villains exist with low (if any) stakes."[79]

The Washington Post has reported that the success of T-Series represents the fast growth of Internet in India with an increase from 20 million Indians with Internet access in 2000 to 560 million in 2018.[58] The Post noted that India became the second-largest mobile phone market in 2018. It also highlighted mobile data plans in India and noted the importance of voice technology because of the low rate of literacy in India. Journalist Ravi Agrawal said that India quickly progressed to cheap mobile phones by skipping slower initial technological advances in the west.[58] Vice reported that T-Series' success lies in focusing on regional audiences and that T-Series does not have competitors in online music in India.[114]

Subscriber count live streams

In September 2018, the YouTube channel FlareTV started a popular live stream showing the live subscriber counts of both channels, as well as the subscriber difference between the two channels.[115] In October 2018, social media statistics and analytics website Social Blade started a live stream showing similar information,[114] while including more in-depth statistics such as average subscribers-per-minute for both channels.[116] The Social Blade stream concluded on 13 June 2019, and the FlareTV stream concluded on 10 September 2019.[117]

Notes

  1. ^ Not including genre-based categories created and maintained by YouTube, such as "Music"[1]

References

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