Opinion: Twitch Continues To Lead Headlines For All The Wrong Reasons - Part 1
If you play games online, watch live streams of just about any activity imaginable or have ever been on the Internet at any point in your life, you’ve more than likely heard of Twitch. For those of you who don’t know, Twitch is the live stream platform owned and operated by Amazon. It’s primarily used for streaming video games and associated content, but everything from cooking to PC building to arts and crafts can be found there. And while it’s by far the largest and most successful site dedicated exclusively to this type of live content, it’s seen recent challengers in the form of Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming. But like with anything else, being at the top doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bumps in the road and it seems like lately Twitch has been hitting a LOT of bumps.
Let’s Go Back To April
Twitch has received a lot of backlash over the past couple of years over different issues, one of which was the now infamous Alinity NSFW wardrobe malfunction that was caught live on stream. That fiasco not only took Twitch two days to respond to, but the length (24 hours) was also deemed as far too lenient with several creators both on and off the platform saying that there have been many creators permabanned for far less serious infractions. All of this happened back in April 2020 and seemed to mark the start of a series of unfortunate events for Twitch.
Twitch Forms The Safety Advisory Council, FerociouslySteph Stirs The Pot
On May 14, Twitch announced in a blog post that they were launching something called the Twitch Safety Advisory Council. This council was formed with several goals in mind, including “drafting new policies and policy updates,” “promoting healthy streaming and work-life balance habits” and “protecting the interests of marginalized groups.” The council being formed included both content creators and non-content creators, such as CohhCarnage (Twitch Partner), Cupanoodle (partnered Twitch Ambassador) and Dr. Sameer Hinduja (Professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University).
The council itself, in my opinion, is a great idea and if utilized to its full potential could become a driving force for good not just on Twitch but for content creation as a whole. The issue that sprang up from the formation of this council came in the form of one of its members, Twitch Partner FerociouslySteph. Steph was one of the first transgender streamers ever to achieve partner status on the platform and advocates for the advancement and fair treatment of marginalized gamers. Sometimes her views are met with strong opposition, such as when she called in-game mechanics such as voice chat “unfair,” adding that those who disagreed with her were “cis white males” and called for its removal in competitive play and when she declared on stream, “I think a lot of you gamers are actually white supremacists.” I can’t seem to locate any articles or clips associated with that quote that sheds any light on the context of the conversation, but it’s an odd choice of words for someone who’s a member of an advisory board that’s trying to promote an inclusive environment. Unfortunately, that’s not where it stopped.
FerociouslySteph was talking on her Twitch channel and said that she had been doxxed. Her phone number and home address weren’t among the data that had been acquired, but information such as her birth name and the high school she attended were made public. Discussing this led to her now viral comment: “I’m hanging in there and I’m not going anywhere. I have power. They can’t take it away from me, and honestly, there are some people that should be afraid of me, and they are because I represent moderation and diversity, and I’m going to come for hurtful harmful people.”
That statement was turned into a video clip that began spreading across the Internet like wildfire. It seemed like everyone had an opinion on the statement, including popular streamers Summit1g and Asmongold. FerociouslySteph’s comments created such a firestorm that Twitch’s CEO Emmett Shear released a statement, saying in part that “council members will not make moderation decisions, nor will they have access to any details on specific moderation cases.” The post would also draw a line between the company itself and the members of the council, saying, “[Council members] are not Twitch employees, and they do not speak on Twitch’s behalf.” While this seemed to quiet some of the louder voices crying out against both Twitch and FerociouslySteph, the drama would continue for quite some time, spawning multiple YouTube vids covering the topic and even a Change.org petition calling for FerociouslySteph’s removal from the SAC and, in a couple of more extreme examples, banning her from the platform.
ANOTHER Month Later…
As if things weren’t crazy enough, Twitch’s next headline-inducing act is one that’s still being covered and talked about to this day. Most everyone who’s ever been on the Internet knows the name “Dr Disrespect,” the on-screen persona of Guy Beahm. Known for being loud, aggressive and one of the best FPS streamers around, Doc had amassed a huge and loyal following on the platform of around 4 million followers and, as of the time of this writing, 3 million on YouTube. This is why it came as such a surprise when it was revealed that Doc had been banned permanently from Twitch.
The news broke on June 26th, the day after his final stream on Twitch, with Doc himself tweeting out that he had been banned from the platform and Twitch issuing refunds to his subscribers, something that only occurs when the ban is permanent. Soon after, rumors and speculation began to fly around various forums and web outlets, ranging from arrest warrants being issued for Beahm’s arrest to Twitch conspiring to void Doc’s multi-million dollar contract to make way for streamers Shroud and Ninja to return to the platform (Microsoft had just announced on June 22nd that it would be shutting down Mixer on July 22nd, where Shroud and Ninja had both moved to). The news would soon dominate headline news on various websites, including an article published on ESPN.
Several weeks after his Twitch ban, Doc returned to live streaming on August 6th, this time on YouTube. Even though he never appeared on screen, Doc garnered over 300,000 consecutive viewers just by streaming a repeating animation of his Lamborghini parked at a Champion’s Club gas station. Doc would tweet an hour into the stream that he wouldn’t actually be returning until the next day, August 7th. When Doc DID finally return to screens across the web, he returned to record-shattering numbers, hitting peak viewership of over 500,000 consecutive viewers. Twitch, meanwhile, still hadn’t revealed any information as to why they banned Doc and as of the time of this writing, still haven’t spoken publicly on the reason. They platform has, however, made a few updates to its guidelines after Twitch streamers Nadeshot and Crimsix had Doc appear on their streams during a Vikkstar Warzone tournament. Since Doc had been banned by the platform, having him on stream was a technical violation of Twitch’s terms of service, prompting the clarification of the community guidelines. This has also prevented other Twitch streamers like Shroud from being able to stream with Doc like they have in the past and questions relating to in-game content, most notably the Champion’s Arena map and related cosmetics in the squad-based shooter Rogue Company, have become a hot topic among content creators.
According to Dr Disrespect, he still doesn’t know why he was banned and claims that no one at Twitch has reached out to offer any sort of explanation. It’s been just over five months and we still don’t have any more information than we did back in June. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily a big deal, but a recent event on the platform has some asking questions about Twitch’s transparency on issues like this and the guidelines they use to make determinations on the dissemination of information.
But we'll cover that on Monday with part two of this article.