‘Twitch blackout’ sees streamers protesting against company inaction

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‘Twitch blackout’ sees streamers protesting against company inaction

A number of Twitch streamers have ceased their broadcasts for 24 hours in protest of inaction on the part of the company following multiple allegations of sexual assault against community members.

People in the video game industry began posting allegations of “gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday,” according to the New York Times. More than 70 people have come forward with their own stories, accusing plenty of Twitch Partners and top streamers, like Tom “ProSyndicate” Cassell and Henry “HenryG” Greer.

The hashtag, #TwitchBlackout, began on June 22 after Twitch released a short statement addressing the allegations. “We take accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct extremely seriously,” Twitch wrote in the statement posted to Twitter. “We are actively looking into the accounts concerning streamers affiliated with Twitch and will work with law enforcement where applicable. We’re thankful for the bravery shown by those who have come forward to speak about their experiences, and we are committed to working to make the streaming community safer for everyone.”

For much of the community, this statement was not enough. Tanya DePass, a Twitch Partner and director of I Need Diverse Games, told Polygon she’s looking for more specific action. “For ONCE speak up and say that [named streamers] are being removed from the Partner program, that they have no place on Twitch,” DePass told Polygon via email. “Their usual MO of not saying anything in response to ongoing cases isn’t enough. Get some transparency about actions taken so we don’t feel like we’re just yelling into the void when we report harassment, stalking, etc.”

DePass said the Twitch blackout is a good idea, but that more planning was needed — specifically to create more “planned actions beyond one day off,” and a “two fold plan that includes people who can’t skip a day.” She added on Twitter that there’s no shame in participating, however. It’s just that more continued work is necessary, too.

Amelia, a Twitch streamer who goes by Spectissa online, said she saw people shaming each other over whether or not they participate in the blackout, a phenomenon that made her concerned about the hashtag. “Many streamers have no idea this is happening outside of Twitter,” she told Polygon via email. “I want to use today to be more vocal about these issues on Twitch.”

Brian Gray, a Twitch variety streamer, told Polygon that his immediate thought regarding the hashtag was similar: “What about the next day, or the next?” He posted on Twitter that he’ll participate in the protest, however.

“During the pandemic, we have still found ways to support our society moving towards justice and accountability,” Gray said. “Whether that’s protesting out in the streets, or staying inside and making a donation to charity. In this case it’s content creators who are essentially independent contractors denying revenue to Twitch via an economic boycott. Companies, especially those with a mostly online presence, find it too easy to make statements and gestures about change, but take no actual action to protect their users, whether they see us as assets or customers.”

Gray said participants aren’t attempting to “bring down” Twitch with the blackout, but “instead prompt them to take a real look at safety on their platform instead of simply issuing statements saying ‘We’re listening.’”

Mackenzie, the Twitch streamer who helped organize the blackout, clarified her position in a video posted to Twitter. “We’re not by any means trying to silence the survivors of sexual assault,” she said. “The whole point was to talk about these issues on platforms where Twitch wouldn’t be making any money.” She clarified that people who are streaming and using the day to talk about these issues on Twitch are still participating in their own way.

Update: A Twitch representative told Polygon via email, “We support our streamers’ rights to express themselves and bring attention to important issues across our service. We know there is work to be done, and we’re listening to this feedback and working with urgency to make Twitch a safer place for everyone in the community.”