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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Twitch viewership down by hundreds of thousands amid Black and queer streamers’ strike

(Washington Post illustration; Twitch)

For many marginalized Twitch streamers, Sept. 1 was the culmination of weeks of organizing. The #ADayOffTwitch movement’s goal was simple: Keep the heat on Twitch to address its platform-wide problem with hate raids — in which harassers use bots and dummy accounts to flood Black, queer and disabled streamers’ chats with hateful messages — by convincing as many streamers as possible to boycott Twitch for a day. Data suggests that thousands of smaller streamers were able to wobble the behemoth that is Twitch, even if they couldn’t fully knock it down.

For the past few weeks, Twitch streamers have demanded that Twitch do better as hate raids increase in number and ferocity. So far, Twitch has publicly acknowledged the problem twice, saying it will provide tools to help streamers combat viewers that evade chat bans and other issues that allow hate raids to persist, but that it can’t divulge details because bad actors could use that information to inform future tactics. But streamers who’ve been harassed, doxed and (in a few cases) swatted for weeks want more than what they perceive as vague blanket statements. #ADayOffTwitch was meant to express this in a way Twitch could not ignore.

On the day of the event, concurrent Twitch viewership peaked at 3.4 million, around 400,000 less than the same day the previous week. From a pure viewership standpoint, it was Twitch’s second-worst day in a month. The overall number of streamers was also measurably lower, peaking at around 119,000 after four weeks of the platform averaging around 136,000. For Twitch, this is by no means a crippling blow — on Sept. 2, the platform was back to business as usual — but it demonstrated the sheer scale of Twitch’s problem.

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Even keeping in mind that, as creator-focused publication Creator Hype points out, Twitch’s numbers might also have taken a hit due to the beginning of the school year and the departure of two major streamers for YouTube’s greener pastures, it’s clear the movement still made a measurable impact on a site that generally only reacts to the thunderous footfalls of its biggest stars. Organizer RekItRaven, who first drew attention to the hate raid problem with their #TwitchDoBetter hashtag last month and has since suffered more abuse, considers it a triumph.

“Biggest takeaway: Don’t count out us ‘nobodies,’ ” said Raven, who like others cited in this article declined to share their full name due to harassment concerns. “We’ve made waves, and we will continue to do so. While people may try to take our achievement away from us, [#ADayOffTwitch] was successful.”

“There is strength in numbers, and it doesn’t matter what your follower count or concurrent viewers are,” said streamer, developer and #ADayOffTwitch organizer Lucia Everblack. “Yes, a lot of big names [ultimately] joined in and that absolutely helped, but this started with a bunch of smaller creators banding together.”

The #ADayOffTwitch hashtag generated well over 100,000 tweets, outdoing Twitter trending topics for YouTube Gaming on the day the Google-owned video platform swiped Twitch star Tim “TimTheTatman” Betar. On Sept. 1 and the days leading up to it, #ADayOffTwitch dominated the conversation surrounding the platform, generating numerous articles from mainstream publications like USA Today, Fox, the Verge and many more (this one included) in the process. For a platform whose daily comings and goings are often confined to a niche, a shift in the mainstream narrative stands to be big and, more importantly, lasting.

The day was not without its hiccups. Some smaller streamers simply could not afford to go dark for a day, and others had contractual obligations to fulfill. This led to friction.

“The apathy, moral absolutism and clout chasing by some who decided to attempt to take anyone who had to stream to task was aggravating,” said streamer and diversity advocate Tanya “Cypheroftyr” DePass, who supported #ADayOffTwitch but was unable to take the whole day off due to contractual obligations attached to her Afrofuturist tabletop role-playing show, “Into The Mother Lands.”

The event also faced skepticism from some Twitch stars, like “World of Warcraft” and “Final Fantasy XIV” mainstay Asmongold, who said during a stream last week that while he supported the movement’s goals, he didn’t believe it had enough backing from big-name Twitch broadcasters to succeed.

“You can’t get a bunch of 20 [small streamers] together and think you’re going to do anything,” Asmongold said. “Nobody gives a f---.”

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It appears that Twitch intends to meet one of #ADayOffTwitch’s stated demands: for there to be a roundtable discussion between Twitch staff and streamers about new anti-abuse tools on Twitch. Shortly after calling for Twitch to do better on Sept. 1, streamer ChillboBagginz — who is part of Twitch’s “Ambassador” promotional program — said that, “Next week I will be participating in a roundtable discussion with Twitch staff and other creators to discuss these concerns.”

Twitch has not directly responded to other #ADayOffTwitch demands, which include immediate implementation of features that would let streamers deny raids, removal of functionality that lets users attach more than three Twitch accounts to one email address (thus making it simple to create dummy accounts), and a time frame for when additional tools will be added. Still, for streamers who participated, something is better than nothing.

“It’s good to see that Twitch is finally making some kind of response by gathering their Ambassadors to discuss,” Vanessa, who goes by “PleasantlyTwstd” on Twitch, said. “At least two of them for sure got hit by multiple raids. I’m going to be very curious about the outcome given the number of Ambassadors who said and did nothing over the course of the last month.”

However, she views this as the bare minimum, something that Twitch should’ve done “two weeks ago.” She wonders if Twitch is going to meet with the community developers who, in Twitch’s absence, have been creating the tools streamers now use to counter hate raids before they can pick up too much momentum. She also wonders why Twitch is only doing a roundtable with Ambassadors and not members of other groups it has organized, like the Twitch Black Guild and the Twitch Women’s Alliance.

“Twitch has demonstrated over the last three years roughly that ‘secret meetings’ aren’t effective — or rather that they can be, but in order to be effective there has to be real action to follow up,” she said. “Twitch is good at getting the meetings together, but consistently drops the ball on relevant follow up.”

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The question now is: What happens next?

“How do we continue this energy without it being a detriment to the very people who rely on what they get from Twitch?” said Omega “Critical Bard” Jones, a queer Black streamer who faced widespread targeted harassment even before Twitch’s current hate raid problem began. “How does the movement remain at the forefront and not lose its momentum? I do not have the answer to that question, but I am very curious to see what the leaders of the movement do next.”

Everblack is considering an action that, on paper, sounds like #ADayOffTwitch’s polar opposite: a “stream-in” where thousands upon thousands of streamers broadcast the same thing at the same time for 24 consecutive hours, magnifying their message and taxing Twitch’s servers.

“We may never be able to fix Twitch,” she said, “but we can absolutely have an immediate effect on the culture around us, and that will at least provide a little bit more safety for people.”

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