A group of Twitch streamers and viewers is calling for a one-day boycott of the popular streaming site to take place Wednesday, following what they see as a slow and tepid response to widespread allegations in recent days of abuse by prominent streamers.
Over the weekend, popular Twitch streamers including SayNoToRage, Tom “ProSyndicate” Cassell, and Henry “HenryG” Greer have been publicly accused of sexual abuse and harassment by multiple women. All three are part of the Twitch Partners program, giving them access to special platform features for monetization and customization of their online video presence. SayNoToRage offered a public apology for his actions, saying there is “no excuse for his behavior,” while Cassell offered a strong denial of the accusations against him.
Twitch promises action
In the wake of these allegations, Twitch put out a brief statement Sunday saying the company “take[s] accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct extremely seriously. We are actively looking into the accounts concerning streamers affiliated with Twitch and will work with law enforcement where applicable.”
That statement wasn’t met with universal acceptance, though. Former Twitch VP Justin Wong, for instance, amplified reports of an unnamed Twitch partner that had been accused of harassment in the past yet continued to receive VIP treatment in Twitch events and streams going forward.
These are empty words considering you, as a company, minimized and dismissed my sexual harassment and continued to let the predator attend your events and gave him live segments at E3 on your official channel. https://t.co/qhRFRoFPRb
— Samantha Wong (@Sampai) June 22, 2020
Twitch music streamer YourStarling, meanwhile, shared reports from a recorded, year-old all-staff meeting where her own reports of abuse by a Twitch partner were reportedly dismissed by Twitch CEO Emmett Shear.
Shear addressed that complaint as part of a lengthy email sent to Twitch staff, which he shared publicly late Monday. “If at some point you’ve heard my comments and felt that they were dismissive or that Twitch doesn’t care, I’m sorry that happened and I want you to know that in no way was that my intent,” he wrote.
In the all-staff message, Shear says the platform will be considering “banning, removing partnerships, or removing people from promotional opportunities and activations if we have concerns based on credible accusations and their historical behavior on Twitch.
“The gaming industry is not unlike others that have had to reckon with systemic sexism, racism, and abuse that rewards certain people and disadvantages—even harms—others,” Shear continues in the email. “While this is an industry-wide issue, we acknowledge that many people experience of Twitch and people who call our service home—particularly women, those in the LGBTQIA community, Black people, and other under-represented groups—have not been what we aspire to.”
Amid the social media back-and-forth, some Twitch users are gathering together in an attempt to force action to back up those words. The Twitch Blackout effort, as organized under trending Twitter hashtag #TwitchBlackout, asks streamers and viewers to avoid the platform on Wednesday, June 24. The goal of the one-day boycott, as characterized by participant ThirdArtifact, is to get Shear and Twitch as a whole “to take note of abuse, racism, sexual harassment, assault and rape.”
WE ARE CALLING FOR A #TWITCHBLACKOUT
We are asking streamers of all sizes to WITHHOLD FROM STREAMS ON WED 6/24 12am – 11:59pm
MAKE THEM NOTICE
— Third Artifact #BIM (@third_artifact) June 22, 2020
An accompanying online petition, signed by over 1,200 people as of this writing, calls for Shear to back up his statements and “finally take action against those who use their power to take advantage of others, & against those who enable it by knowing it goes on but stay silent or brush it off.”
Twitch has an inconsistent history in responding to reports of problematic behavior among some of its partners. Last year, the company cut ties with Thomas “Elvine” Cheung after he was arrested in a child sex trafficking sting. But Australian streamer Luke “MrDeadMoth” Munday initially received only a temporary ban from the platform after he was arrested for assault over an attack captured on stream. Twitch later made that ban permanent after community outcry.
And last year, popular streamer Guy “DrDisrespect” Breahm received a two-week suspension from Twitch after being kicked out of the E3 gaming convention for filming a Twitch stream in a public bathroom.
Last month, Twitch publicly rolled out a Safety Advisory Council dedicated to creating new policies and features to “improve safety and moderation” and “protect the interests of marginalized groups” on the platform. The group is made up of “online safety experts and Twitch creators who have a deep understanding of Twitch, its content, and its community,” as Twitch puts it.