Was the Twitch Blackout Protest a Success?
The Twitch Blackout, a planned mass walkout of Twitch streamers that occurred June 24, went off to mixed success. While many small to medium-sized streamers went through with their threat to not stream yesterday, many of the largest streamers on the platform went ahead with their broadcasts anyway, crossing the so-called picket line on the strike.
What Led to the Twitch Blackout?
Gaming and esports, especially Twitch, is having something of a #MeToo moment, just as Hollywood did several years ago. Many streamers, including Jericho and others, have been accused of sexual assault against other members of the esports and gaming communities.
This led to a mass Blackout protest by both streamers and fans of Twitch that change needed to come, change that’s been slow to happen in general. Twitch CEO Emmett Shear has been woefully ignorant of the issues on his platform for years, and only now seems to have been awakened to the issues thanks to this backlash and other problems.
He sent out an internal email to Twitch partners and staff promising to do better, even before the Twitch Blackout and was eventually forced to respond publicly.
What Could Be Done Better for the Next Twitch Blackout?
Many large streamers, who constitute a large majority of Twitch’s viewership, refused to participate in the Twitch Blackout. This was largely because many of Twitch’s biggest superstars lose a significant portion of their income due to lost subscribers for missing a scheduled stream, not to mention their donations and ad revenue.
Instead, a suggestion that’s been floated would be for, instead of a blackout/walkout of streamers, all of these streamers should spend a significant portion of their broadcast discussing the issues with their audiences and getting them to petition Twitch for change directly. In this way, not only would they educate their audience, but it would also send a clear and direct message to Amazon and Twitch management, especially their ad partners, that the situation as it stands is untenable.
Many who don’t use social media and only use Twitch to follow their favorite personalities might have just been confused as to why their favorite streamer wasn’t live and been ignorant to the issues with Twitch and its culture otherwise.
Twitch’s Response to the Blackout Protest
After the Twitch Blackout protest had more or less wrapped up for the day and many, many women came forward with stories of sexual harassment or assault from various streamers, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear finally broke the silence publicly for the first time.
“We want to provide an update on our investigations into the recent allegations of sexual abuse and harassment involving Twitch streamers and actions we’re taking,” Twitch said in a release. “We are reviewing each case that has come to light as quickly as possible while ensuring appropriate due diligence as we assess these serious allegations. We’ve prioritized the most severe cases and will begin issuing permanent suspensions in line with our findings immediately. In many of the cases, the alleged incident took place off Twitch, and we need more information to make a determination.”
This does raise questions about the extent to which Twitch can (or should) police actions performed off their platform, even if the initial meeting occurred on Twitch itself through its chat systems or within a certain streamer’s mod circle. The responsible thing would be to get the authorities involved; something Twitch says they are currently doing. Additionally, Twitch once again mentioned the reporting tools available on each streamer’s page and says that any reports made would be anonymous to prevent retaliation by the streamer in question and ensure the reporter’s safety.
Twitch also says they are working to enhance the automod further and banned word lists to protect their viewers further.
“Those who have come forward have shown incredible strength, vulnerability, and bravery,” Twitch concluded. “We acknowledge that we can’t singlehandedly tackle pervasive issues across the gaming and broader internet communities, but we take our responsibility as a service for our community seriously. We will continue to assess accusations against people affiliated with Twitch and explore ways Twitch can collaborate with other industry leaders on this important issue.”
Ultimately whether the Twitch Blackout protest was a success or failure is in the eye of the beholder. While Twitch did give a public response to the situation and pledged to be better about listening to their audience when it comes to reports, time will tell if they can follow through and police their streamers on a level of any significance. This is especially true as Twitch has had these problems for years, even before they were known as Justin.tv. Ultimately, this problem is so pervasive as a disgusting part of internet culture. It’s hard to say what (if anything) will force people to change. The only thing that can be done is stricter moderation on Twitch, more education for streamers on how to interact with their audiences safely (especially on the partner level,) and just generally the public holding personalities accountable for their actions as a cautionary tale.