"Twitch" crossed out next to the calendar showing Sept. 1. (Image: Twitch/Amazon and Alyssa Shotwell.)

Streamers, Fans Voice Support For #ADayOffTwitch to Bring Attention to Racist Bot Attacks

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Over the last few weeks, Twitch streamers from marginalized communities have shared videos and screenshots of bots raiding their streams. Instead of the usual joy that comes with a one streamer sending all of their viewers to another stream at the end of a session, these raids are made up accounts sent to harass the unsuspecting content creator with a barrage of slurs and disgusting language.

The hate raids consist of racist language, and often, the usernames themselves are hateful words and phrases just mundane enough (or slightly adjusted common words) to make it past Twitch’s hate speech detection. Black streamers, in particular, have shared the most alarming examples of this attack.

In an effort to get attention from Twitch, streamers and viewers shared examples of this harassment under the tag #TwitchDoBetter. The more private means of communication and support to Twitch was leading to nothing. The hashtag worked in getting a response from Twitch, if nothing else.

Twitch’s response so far has been addressing the concerns by saying they will do better and a few site tweaks. Streamers believe that the harassment got worse after Twitch ramped up the “tag” feature this past spring. The feature was put in place to help people find community but, like everything good on the internet, quickly became exploited by trolls. Twitch said they rolled out an update to fix the filters and better detect hate speech in chat.

These so-called fixes, haven’t resulted in a better experience for those dealing with the hate raids. Creator of the #TwitchDoBetter tag RekItRaven decided to organize with streamers LuciaEverblack and ShineyPen, and call for a blackout on Twitch on September 1, 2021. This blackout encourages streamers and viewers alike to not stream, watch streams, or log into chats.

Like any attempt to push for social change and accountability, there are some rifts on how to best approach the issue. Not everyone in support of the message is in support of #ADayOffTwitch.

Music Producer and Twitch Partner Jordan (a.k.a. Detune) sees this action more akin to the black square incident of last summer. In that moment, the square was supposed to be a blackout of the music industry to bring attention to the growing Black Lives Matter movement. Instead, it was used by too many people, and some used hashtags (like #BLM), thus clogging the search results for those tags with Black squares instead of information.

Detune instead asks for people to contact advertisers and organize on-stream protests.

Unfortunately, his call for a different approach led to people gate-keeping Blackness by saying he wasn’t really Black enough because he doesn’t come from two Black parents. While I disagree with his choice to not participate, that doesn’t mean he is any less Black. We are not a monolith. He knows this is an issue and has spoken up about it for a while.

Another person caught in the crossfire of this debate is Texas-based streamer and self-proclaimed “professional neckbeard” Asmongold. Unlike Detune, who provided thoughtful reasoning behind why he isn’t joining, Asmongold decided to throw gasoline on the fire.

On stream, Asmongold shared that he thought this was pointless and that no one would care without a substantial number of big-name streamers getting involved. As one of the biggest streamers on the platform, Twitch would care if he joined them.

In the same clip, he says that if other bigger streamers joined, of course he would join. This goes to show that if there is a faint whiff of loss of money or influence, some people will not show up for marginalized communities. With 2.4 million followers, Asmongold is the level of streamer that could bring major attention to this movement and get other big streamers involved. Instead, he belittles people trying to make a change.

I think that doing a combination of what Detune and the organizers are planning would be the best use of time. Continue to ramp up support for boycott day(s) and then, later, do the streaming protest. There are several top streamers outside of Asmongold that could help this gain traction, such as Hasan Piker. Some of the top-viewed accounts are eSports teams and gaming companies—both off which should participate in this rather than give empty platitudes when racism (and more) can’t be ignored.

The reason that Detune’s method alone won’t probably work is because, at the end of the day, the views on the platform translate to dollars. A hate-watch or a supportive watch is still eyes on the Amazon-owned platform. This is why Raven and others (including some bigger channels like KindaFunny Games, with over 165, 000 followers) have decided that, on September 1, they are essentially boycotting Twitch for the day.

Right before Amazon bought Twitch for $970 million dollars (2015), I streamed weekly on the site, and even in my short time there, with a few dozen followers, I was harassed every so often. It wasn’t with bots, because they were lazy and bots weren’t as common in 2015, but the scariest interaction I have had on the internet was on Twitch when an account named after the death of person beheaded by ISIS entered my chat.

The night this happened, they remotely took over my computer, and each time they wrote in chat, they described where I live in more and more detail. Two years before the first swatting that would result in a death happened, I was terrified that I would have to wake up my family at midnight to tell them strangers online might send the police after us.

There was nothing to show that it was because I am Black or because I am a woman, but both demographics (in addition to the LGBTQ+ community) are at high risk for harassment. Twitch knows these groups are most at risk for harassment. Every platform knows this, and they knew it before last summer.

Twitch’s refusal to address this in any meaningful and transparent way after years of asking Twitch to do better makes their latest promise to do so questionable. They would rather censor the words “virgin” and “simp” than racist, homophobic, and sexist words and phrases.

Some of the demands for #ADayOffTwitch include hosting a roundtable discussion with affected creators, allowing streamers to allow or deny incoming raids, limiting accounts to less than two per email, and increased transparency of the whole process.

Join the streamers on other platforms or stay off the site altogether September 1. It takes minimal effort, and in return, if enough people do it, it will create more pressure on Twitch to protect its creators.

(via Twitter, Twitch/Amazon and Alyssa Shotwell)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.