Viewers of the livestreaming platform Twitch will find today quieter than usual. Creators and streamers across categories including gaming, music and the growing real-life streams are taking part in the #ADayOffTwitch campaign, which is designed to bring attention to an issue they say allows harassment via one of Twitch’s most well-used tools.
The ‘hate-raid’ allows enormous groups of users to flood the live comments section of a stream. The raid functionality was designed to allow streamers to send their viewers to another streamer at the conclusion of their session – but it was designed with altruism in mind. Streamers were supposed to use it to create a virtuous circle of support for one another, using the raid to boost the profile of other streamers.
Unfortunately, given that users will use tools in ways that subvert those expectations, the raid function is being used to direct huge numbers of users to harass multiple streamers in turn. Twitch has promised that a change is inbound, but that it isn’t an “easy fix”.
No one should have to experience malicious and hateful attacks based on who they are or what they stand for. This is not the community we want on Twitch, and we want you to know we are working hard to make Twitch a safer place for creators. https://t.co/fDbw62e5LW
No one should have to experience malicious and hateful attacks based on who they are or what they stand for. This is not the community we want on Twitch, and we want you to know we are working hard to make Twitch a safer place for creators. https://t.co/fDbw62e5LW— Twitch (@Twitch) August 20, 2021
Raids are not the only vector for harrasment, however, and per Twitch "streamers can protect themselves from potential abuse of the raids feature by choosing to only accept raids from friends, teammates, and channels they follow."
The #ADayOffTwitch campaign, organized by streamers ShineyPen, Lucia Everblack and RekitRaven, builds upon the #TwitchDoBetter movement, which aims to highlight these issues as they become more widespread across the site.
In response to a request from The Drum, Twitch said: “As a community we have boundaries that set and maintain a solid baseline of what’s acceptable on the service and what is not. We are not a free speech service and do not permit harassment, hateful conduct or explicit sexual content. We only serve advertising on Partner and Affiliate channels. These channels have a track record of streaming responsibly, meeting quality standards and complying with our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.
“Aside from the moderation tools available to creators and viewers, brands can choose to only buy against channels that we have determined employ the highest level of moderation and have no content that could be objectionable. Over the past year, we have doubled the size of our Safety Operations team and we continually evolve and refine our policies to make our guidelines clearer and impactful.”
Hitting the wallet
Over the past few years Twitch has been investing in its advertising capabilities. It has a lucrative younger audience, many of whom are no longer reachable via traditional broadcast models. 70% of Twitch’s viewers are between the ages of 16 and 34, and it claims that “39% of our audience is not reachable via traditional TV”.
It says: “The industry is on the cusp of the next era of creative storytelling – going beyond the traditional 30-second spot.”
It has made the community aspect of the livestream a central tenet of its pitch to potential advertisers, which is why the organizers of the day of action believe that taking a day off Twitch is likely to spur change.
Reminder message for September 1st. Whether you are a viewer or a streamer please take that day off the platform completely. Twitch has made it clear the only thing they listen to is money. So hit them in the pocket book. #ADayOffTwitch #dayofftwitch #TwitchDoBetter pic.twitter.com/1sVo5ZFtja
Reminder message for September 1st. Whether you are a viewer or a streamer please take that day off the platform completely. Twitch has made it clear the only thing they listen to is money. So hit them in the pocket book. #ADayOffTwitch #dayofftwitch #TwitchDoBetter pic.twitter.com/1sVo5ZFtja— Pollyphemeus taking a day off Twitch ️⚧️ (@pollyphemeus) August 24, 2021
Suzy Barnes is CEO and chairman of Studio Diva. She says: "Putting aside the technical challenge of even just monitoring the mountain of daily live content streamed on platforms like Twitch and Youtube, the stratospheric viewer numbers makes this community impossible to ignore. It's also worth noting that the nature of live streaming means they can never be seen as “brand safe” environments.
"While Twitch may have taken action recently to try to deal with a trend towards sexualised content appearing on the platform, this is an unregulated space - it's untenable to try and prevent inappropriate language or sexualised chat. So is it brand safe? Absolutely not. Compelling? Still yes. Such a vast audience, and with a younger demographic not reachable on television, Twitch is a true Wild West for media planning - a promised land replete with both opportunity and risk in equal measure."
The #ADayOffTwitch campaign itself has faced some criticism, both from smaller streamers who cannot afford to forsake a day of earnings, and from those that believe it is giving the hate-raiders exactly what they want. Ultimately the success or failure of the campaign relies upon whether the brands that choose to advertise on Twitch take note.