Canadian YouTube star a convicted pedophile
Global News investigation prompts YouTube to reconsider policies
Read it on Global News: Global News | Canadian YouTube star a convicted pedophile
To thousands of David Rock's online fans, it looks like a nondescript farm with a heavy dose of Jackass - a place near London, Ont. where guys gather to crash cars and take videos of the ensuing mayhem.
But an investigation by Global News' current affairs program 16:9 The Bigger Picture shows some are concerned the farm that made Rock famous is a more dangerous place than what's portrayed on YouTube, and its proprietor has a dark side that is only now becoming widely known.
Rock is the personality behind the YouTube channel "Davidsfarm," an online sensation with almost 100,000 subscribers, more than a 100 million video views, and a loyal and international fan base consisting largely of men and boys.
Rock is also a convicted pedophile. According to court documents obtained by 16:9, he pleaded guilty in 1992 to seven charges that involved sexually assaulting, sexually exploiting and videotaping younger people. He was sentenced to a year in jail.
The 49-year-old, who describes himself on his YouTube channel as a "self-employed garbage picker, problem solver and repairman," doesn't deny his history. Rock admitted to 16:9 that he filmed children in sexual situations, but denies the way he touched them was inappropriate.
"I just filmed them masturbating," he said, and that the way he touched them "lasted two seconds, not even in an intrusive way ..."
Rock denies being a pedophile, and says he hasn't acted inappropriately with children in two decades. "Don't call me a pedophile, don't call me other things, call me a voyeur, that was what was wrong with me … I've been clean for 20 years."
He told 16:9 he was re-tested in 1998 for pedophilic tendencies, and the results were negative.
But neither the 18 years since his conviction nor the test in 1998 have put to rest concerns and rumours that he behaves inappropriately around boys, sexually and otherwise.
His YouTube videos show Rock allowing children to drive cars and trucks in order to perform stunts at his farm in Lucan, Ont. One video showed Rock telling an 11-year-old boy to sit on his lap if he wanted to drive the car.
A 13-year-old-boy who spent time on the farm at the age of 12, without parental supervision, described seeing questionable behaviour by Rock.
He told 16:9 Rock looked on while a 12-year-old boy danced naked in the presence of a group of kids, and the boy later ended up sleeping in a bed with Rock.
That second boy was at the farm with his mother. She said that she left her son at the farm that night, and that her son has since denied any inappropriate behaviour occurred.
A former disciple of Rock's, Chris Whitcroft, said he also witnessed questionable behaviour by Rock, including the time he says Rock entered a hot tub naked while a 10-year-old boy was also in the tub.
When asked by 16:9 why he'd put himself in that position, Rock said, "you can't see anything under the water when the bubbles and froth are there."
16:9 also asked Rock if he was conditioning kids who come to the farm for other reasons. He responded that he "one-hundred-per-cent believe(s) that a lot of people believe that.
"Young and old have some sort of respect for me just like a priest or somebody, so that might give me more power to make the wrong move and do something wrong."
Rock says children were, in fact, his motivation for starting the YouTube channels - it was part of a quest to find his own estranged sons.
"I wanted to be famous enough so that my teenage children could find me," he said.
"I knew that if I could be famous enough and make it known to the world that I was missing two children, two sons who were taken by my ex-girlfriends, that then since I didn't know where they were they would be able to find out that I was their father and I was looking for them."
Those children are "missing" as the result of troubled relationships with their respective mothers, both ex-girlfriends of Rock.
This past July, Rock was convicted of criminal harassment of ex-girlfriend Anna Thoms, and spent six days in jail. He was sentenced to three years probation.
"He's dangerous to be around," she said.
Evelyn Van Beest is another of Rock's ex-girlfriends. Both she and Thoms became pregnant while dating Rock in the 1990s. Each gave birth to a boy.
Thoms' son was born in 1996, and she went to court to get full custody. She said she was concerned because Rock wanted unsupervised access to the child. He gave up that fight when documents describing his criminal past were submitted in court.
Van Beest also went to court and has full custody of her son.
Both women said they were shocked when, years later, Rock made YouTube videos pleading for information about his sons, portraying them as "lost" and "stolen."
"This guy is a monster," Van Beest told 16:9. "We're horrified at what's going on at this farm."
Her son, Andrew, said he does not want to meet Rock. "I just don't want to see him after what he has done to other people."
Not all the concerns about Rock's activities are focused on sexual issues. Some deal with safety.
Chris Whitcroft, the man who says he saw Rock naked in a hot tub with a boy, broke his back crashing a motor home at the farm. He said the stunts are dangerous and the competition to outdo other stunt drivers will eventually lead to someone being killed.
Rock said all those concerns are unfounded now.
"The high-risk sexual situations that you were talking about and the high-risk stunt situations, I've stopped them all."
But word of his questionable past has started to have an impact on his YouTube presence and maybe even his international reputation, which is considerable.
Fans travel from around the world to the Lucan farm. In addition to all the online traffic his YouTube channel receives, Rock's farm was also featured last year on CTV's National News in a laudatory piece that mentioned nothing about his criminal past or ongoing concerns over activity at the farm.
That notoriety has also translated into cash. Rock says he has earned more than $100,000 from YouTube, via advertising displayed on his page that pays him each time a video is viewed and each time an ad is clicked.
That revenue stream may be running dry.
YouTube officials told 16:9 they were unaware of Rock's criminal past - a statement Rock refutes -- and have now cut off advertising to the Davidsfarm channel after advertisers complained.
"We do terminate the account when it's not good for our advertisers. If you look back at his channel you will see no more ads on it," said Scott Rubin, head of public policy and communications strategy for YouTube's parent company Google. He added that Google was reviewing its policies in light of the concerns over Davidsfarm.
Other social media sites do, in fact, ferret out those with a criminal past looking to post or set up pages on their servers. MySpace, for instance, now employs a service that looks up users' criminal history and deletes accounts belonging to convicted pedophiles.
Despite Google's actions, Rock has other channels on the site, including "Davidsfarmvlog" which continues to display ads.
Some of the advertisers contacted by 16:9 expressed outrage and concern over their ads appearing alongside Rock's videos.
Procter and Gamble, for instance, said "we were unaware of the background on this channel and we are looking into the situation further."
Scott Goodyear, owner of Aqua Socks in Cape Coral, Florida, says he is furious his advertisements appeared on Rock's site.
"I was shocked I'm paying for my ads to be on a child molester's website," he said. "I want my ad out of his site definitely and I'm going to request some reimbursement for my advertising."
Rock's fame and the resulting concerns about what's happening on that Lucan farm have also piqued the interest of law enforcement.
Bylaw officers along with the Ontario Provincial Police visited Rock's farm in September to investigate possible bylaw violations involving his vehicles. The visit was filmed by Rock and turned in to a YouTube video.
The OPP told 16:9 it is monitoring activity at the farm. "At this point, it's an ongoing investigation, and rest assured we are aware of what's going on," said OPP Sergeant David Rector.
Rock says he's unfazed by the search, adding it may have boosted his fame.
"The police coming out here for that stupid raid that had to do with the bylaw that was just a total farce and all that stuff has sort of given me legendary status."
It's a defiant attitude echoed on his YouTube channel, where he sells his global audience on the wonders of "wild redneck influenced cars" and the ensuing "wildest joyrides."
"Don't bother visiting any site that has to do with my farm," Rock writes. "They're all full of haters that have dedicated their lives to try to bring down Canada's #1 Youtuber! [sic]"