Cisco says a company 'leader' who encouraged TikTok followers to report strippers to the IRS is no longer employed at the company

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Cisco says a company 'leader' who encouraged TikTok followers to report strippers to the IRS is no longer employed at the company
A woman wears spiked stilettos as she practices a pole dancing move. REUTERS/Jason Reed

TikTok influencer Ethan Keiser, who went viral earlier this month for encouraging his TikTok followers to try to make money by reporting strippers to the IRS, is no longer working at Cisco following the controversy, according to the company.

In his original videos, Keiser told his 840,000 followers​​ he had made $60,000 a month filling out IRS whistleblower forms "snitching" on dancers who showed off their earnings on TikTok.

@itsethankeiser

##stitch with @billiondollarbbyy I’m trying to educate y’all on why this is bad! ##tax

♬ original sound - Ethan Keiser - Big Brain

According to the IRS website, those who report people not paying their taxes can earn up to 30% of the amount seized after the tip.

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"I'm trying to protect 1099 workers who get pre-taxed money from getting audited," he said in a follow-up TikTok.

Keiser captioned the videos saying they were intended to be jokes, but strippers featured in the TikToks told Rolling Stone the harassment they faced online worsened after his followers began trolling them in droves.

"He's making it worse for us. We get so much hate and he creates so much more hate," Ashley DiMeo, a stripper and TikTok creator, told Rolling Stone.

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Cisco parted ways with the influencer for 'endangering other workers,' according to Keiser

Cisco, which made a name for itself selling infrastructure like routers and switches to companies, was made aware of the TikToks after the author of the Rolling Stone article, EJ Dickson, reached out to the company for comment, according to Keiser.

"Essentially Cisco did an internal review and I already knew I was gone," Keiser told Insider. "I had a pretty good understanding that they were going to take action against me, for sure. I mean, it's in the nature of this company, and how they stand and all the messaging that they've had in the past. Anything that seems to attack a vulnerable group, they're going to take that dive and it makes more sense for business, how they want to put it."

The next day, Keiser said "they had a meeting" where his management determined that he would be put on a three-week administrative leave.

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"They were sounding like they were more mad that I didn't tell them that this was happening," Keiser said. "However, I do a lot of content on TikTok that is sometimes seen as controversial, but I don't think it's controversial."

After his three-week leave, he said, his management determined that he should be terminated.

Keiser said the reason provided for his termination was that he was endangering other workers. Cisco would not provide a reason for Keiser's separation from the company, but said his official title was "Leader, Engineering."

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He was fully let go on October 7, according to Keiser, but he says he didn't sign the severance agreement.

Keiser added that if Cisco doesn't provide him a severance package that he agrees with, then he might "consider" talking to a lawyer and pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit.

"Yeah, I disagree with their conclusion," Keiser said. "I just feel like I made a pretty good point and I was funny about it and that's what I'm being penalized for, but whatever."

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Strippers on the app say Keiser's videos made the harassment they already face on TikTok worse

The community of strippers on TikTok, commonly known as "StripTok," have amplified and destigmatized what it means to be a stripper in recent years.

The increased visibility has also meant more online harassment for many sex workers. Many dancers on "StripTok" took Keiser's TikTok as a direct attack on sex workers.

Keiser told Insider he never mentioned sex workers or strippers in his video and never intended to make people feel unsafe.

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"For those who feel as if they're being targeted by this video, I would say I fully regret doing it simply because I don't want anyone to feel targeted ever," Keiser said. "The message was still clear and correct, but I hate how certain people took the message and made it into being something so much worse."

Keiser's videos directly responded to strippers and sex workers on the platform via the stitch function.

BeeBee Gunn, a Minnesota-based stripper of three years with 1.3 million followers on TikTok, told Insider Keiser's videos and videos like it only make things worse for sex workers on the app, regardless of whether or not they're intended as a joke.

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"The harm's already been done because you already have people online thinking that they can do that now," Gunn said.

Gunn told Insider the "snitching" mentioned in Keiser's viral TikTok isn't anything new, as there is a history of sex workers being targeted online after discussing their specific earnings, like in 2018 when Reddit users launched a campaign to report sex workers on OnlyFans to the IRS.

"Ethan didn't invent this. It's been a thing and really it's is rooted in sex worker stigma," Gunn said.

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They say the fallout from Keiser's video is a "wake-up call" for strippers who show off or exaggerate how much they earn on TikTok.

"As much as the views are great, you're putting yourself in danger by flashing all the money that you make," Gunn said. "I think it's ridiculous that he's doing this but I also think that this is like a wake-up call for strippers and sex workers on TikTok."

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