When professional video game streamer Marcel Dee, also knowns as MDee14, launched a charity campaign on Aug. 12, he was excited to support suicide prevention and mental healthcare alongside the Erika Legacy Foundation through his gaming on the streaming platform Twitch.
Instead, Dee’s streams were inundated every day with thousands of hateful commenters, and he was forced to manually block more than 200,000 users in just over two weeks.
“I have yet to hear anything from Twitch support,” Dee told USA TODAY.
Content creators, moderators and fans are participating in a boycott of Twitch Wednesday to protest the platform’s failure to control ‘hate raids.’
On Twitch, viewers can participate in a live chat while a creator is streaming, and during a hate raid, hundreds of automated bot accounts flood the chat with harassment, slurs and doxing.
“We’re tired. We’re annoyed. We’re angry,” said Tanya DePass, who streams video and tabletop games on Twitch under the name Cypheroftyr. “Some people flat out said now they’re afraid to stream…it’s just exhausting.
The boycott began surrounding several movements on Twitter. Just under a month ago, #TwitchDoBetter started to raise awareness of hate raids and the boycott titled #ADayOffTwitch, as it asks streamers and viewers to avoid using the platform on Wednesday. An adjacent movement, #SubOffTwitch, has also gained traction to give viewers alternative ways to support their favorite creators without using the tools available through Twitch.
Creators from marginalized communities, particularly people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ and people with disabilities, have been outspoken about the rise in hate on Twitch.
DePass is Black and said she has experienced hate raids several times. She is also a chat moderator for some of her friends who stream on Twitch and has seen them fall victim to the targeted harassment as well.
“We support our streamers’ rights to express themselves and bring attention to important issues across our service. No one should have to experience malicious and hateful attacks based on who they are or what they stand for, and we are working hard on improved channel-level ban evasion detection and additional account improvements to help make Twitch a safer place for creators,” a Twitch spokesperson told USA TODAY. “As we work on solutions, bad actors work in parallel to find ways around them, which is why we can’t always share details publicly.”
Color of Change, the largest online racial justice advocacy organization in the United States, partnered with Twitch streamer Kayla Bolden after she was hate raided during a charity stream for Stand Up To Cancer.
Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, the organization’s Senior Director of Media, Culture and Economic Justice, said Color of Change has a meeting scheduled with Twitch to go over a list of demands that they created in collaboration with Bolden to make the platform a safer space for Black creators.
“The most important thing is that tech organizations have to do is build out civil rights infrastructure at their companies,” Ogunnaike said. “You have to have a team who’s consistently evaluating and seeing problems before they can even happen. If Twitch had a team like this, they would have been able to assess the problem from way before. They would have seen the possibility of hate raids coming on.”
Twitch offers certain filters and settings intended to help protect streamers from bots and hateful messages, but they aren’t always effective. DePass experienced a hate raid in which bots used a symbol from the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the letter E in order to spam her chat with a racial slur.
Brandon Stennis, a gaming streamer with nearly 40,000 followers as iamBrandon, has been using the platform for six years and said he is used to Twitch offering lip service without meaningful action to its creators.
“It’s kind of like being in an abusive relationship with someone where they do something to you, and then they say they’re going to change, and it keeps going,” Stennis said. “That’s how I’ve always thought about the platform.”
Stennis, who is Black and a member of the LGBTQ community, experienced his first hate raid on Aug. 19, and he said he is participating in the #ADayOffTwitch boycott because of how traumatizing the experience can be for new creators to the platform or those with smaller followings.
“Racist or homophobic comments and stuff like that I’m used to, but the amount and how fast it happens is very shocking,” he said. “Everybody wants to feel safe on the platform…if this was happening to the top 5% of streamers on Twitch, this would be fixed within a day, I can guarantee you that.”
DePass said she specifically wants more transparency from Twitch about the ways that they are punishing users who engage in hate raids and about the ways that they plan to bolster protections for creators.
“A thing we’ve been asking for forever is, on Facebook if you block someone, they can’t find you. They can’t interact with you. I would love that same level of banning and blocking on Twitch, because right now if I banned someone in my chat, they can still watch the stream … and what’s to stop them from making another account and coming right back?”
However, #ADayOffTwitch is not an ideal form of protest for DePass because she is still contractually obligated to stream her Twitch-funded show, Into the Motherlands, ever yWednesday. Because many creators are directly partnered with Twitch, not all who have issues with the platform’s handling of hate raids can actually participate in the protest.
Jordan Raskopoulos, a streamer who has been targeted by hate raids for being transgender, said on Twitter that she is concerned that the boycott will quiet marginalized voices on the platform rather than elevating them.
“If you’re an ally and want to yield time and space then that makes sense. Commit to hosting and raiding marginalised creators for the next month. Co-stream with them, promote them, copy their ban lists or donate to them,” Raskopoulos wrote. “I wanna be louder and have POC and queers to take up more territory, and I want people who call themselves allies to help make it happen.”
Contact Emily Adams at email@example.com or on Twitter @eaadams6.
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