Twitch Streamers are avoiding the platform today and calling for viewers to steer clear of the site with the campaign #ADayOffTwitch. The boycott held today follows a summer of rising tensions among marginalized creators on the platform.
Why Streamers Are Protesting
In May Twitch added over 350 new tags intended to help find streamers in the community by race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability, veteran status, and other identities. The move came after various groups of streamers had advocated for the tags in order to make it easier for viewers to find them. Earlier this year the nonprofit Trans Lifeline launched Peer2Peer, a discovery tool for streamers and their viewers, which The Verge reports included tags such as “trans,” Black,” and “lesbian.” While streamers saw the success of Peer2Peer as a reason for the inclusion of tags, implementation on Twitch has led to disastrous results.
The summer saw a marked change in how marginalized streamers can use the platform. Last month Launcher reported on the proliferation of hate raids — which aim to derail streams by inundating chats with targeted harassment and hate speech — in recent months. It’s widely suspected that identity-based tags are making it easier for trolls, human or bot, to carry out these attacks. After RekItRaven, a Black and nonbinary streamer, shared their experience of being raided with followers on August 6th, thousands rallied behind a call for action from the Amazon-owned Twitch using the hashtag #TwtichDoBetter.
Twitch initially responded to the campaign with improved chat filters that left streamers calling for further change. The solution is not simply to remove the tags but to rid the people abusing the platform. And even despite the harm, it has wrought, some streamers do think the pros outweigh the cons.
Twitch’s response also failed to address other grievances simultaneously boiling over. The moment has been used to raise the issue of the platform’s abhorrent cut of profits from subscriptions and tips via “Bit’s,” the platform’s proprietary currency that viewers first purchase with real money. Currently, Twitch takes 50 percent of earnings from most streamers, while the most popular creators on the platform can negotiate for more favorable splits.
#ADayOffTwitch was announced by RekItRaven on Aug. 20 alongside fellow trans and POC streamers LuciaEverblack and ShineyPen.
Kotaku reported that the move aims to put more pressure on Twitch to take responsibility for allowing hate speech and harassment to spread so easily on its platform.
Speaking to The Verge on the eve of the boycott, Everblack said “We don’t just want solutions to current problems…We want policies in place so that these kinds of problems never happen again or at least never get this severe.” But the move has not been met with unanimity. Ash Parrish writes “it’s just not feasible for some smaller streamers, arguably the population most affected by hate raids, to take a day off,” while others have emphasized tat “the people behind these hate raids are working to bully marginalized streamers off the platform, and taking a day off is giving them exactly what they want.”
It’s still too early to tell where streamers and Twitch will go from here. The movement was big enough to get trending on Twitter, but likely won’t cause any real harm to Twitch’s metrics. If social pressure is what’s needed, then we may see further protests in some form or another. What is clear is that there is a bigotry problem on Twitch, and streamers cannot — should not — alone redress Twitch’s failings.