Twitch is the largest live streaming platform on Earth with over 1.7 billion hours of content watched last May alone. Software company StreamElements reported in 2019 that Twitch accounts for roughly 70% of all streaming viewed online. Twitch is clearly the top player in its field and offers a massive platform for independent content creators, but it’s no secret that the platform is also frequently under fire for allegations of abuse by its users. Complaints have been common for years, perhaps most famously with PewDiePie spewing out racial slurs on stream in 2017. Streamers are now calling for a Twitch Blackout to force the platform to view the complaints as a genuine issue, rather than something to be swept under the rug.
Recently, multiple women have come forward over the weekend with allegations of abuse received from Twitch streamers and community members. Some of these reports are already prompting direct action; notably with Omeed Dariani, CEO of live stream management company Online Performers Group, resigning his position following allegations of sexual harassment. While individual cases are ongoing, the outpouring of reports has drawn renewed attention to the prevalence of unacceptable behaviour surrounding Twitch users. Twitch posted an official update on Twitter to address the company’s stance on these allegations.
— Twitch (@Twitch) June 22, 2020
While it is nice to see Twitch address the issue, many feel that the quintessential safe brand statement is too little and does nothing to address the actual issues raised. With a variety of reports dating from years back to the present, evidence suggests a large-scale and pervasive pattern of abuse within the community creating a hostile and toxic space, particularly for women and minorities. A group of members are calling for Twitch to take meaningful action in rooting out racism, sexism, and abusers from the platform.
WE ARE CALLING FOR A #TWITCHBLACKOUT
We are asking streamers of all sizes to WITHHOLD FROM STREAMS ON WED 6/24 12am – 11:59pm
MAKE THEM NOTICE
— Third Artifact #BIM (@third_artifact) June 22, 2020
While some have criticised the blackout as shallow and have urged for more direct action towards Twitch such as petitioning, streamer Third Artifact has responded that she hopes moving the discussion away from Twitch will allow streamers to campaign for this action on other platforms so as to not contribute revenue towards Twitch.
Why #TWITCHBLACKOUT is not about being silent
What is it and why: pic.twitter.com/M2LtnhnT86
— Third Artifact #BIM (@third_artifact) June 24, 2020
While #TWITCHBLACKOUT is gaining traction on Twitter with thousands discussing the movement, this represents a tiny fraction of Twitch’s 15 million daily active users. Whether the blackout will draw enough attention to prompt any substantial action from Twitch is questionable, but the series of allegations that have emerged so far suggests that many changes are needed if Twitch is to become a more welcoming platform for many of its users and streamers online. With some sponsors already taking note, it’s yet to be answered whether this will have the wide-reaching effect of YouTube’s ‘adpocalypse’ triggering sweeping policy changes or if Twitch will neglect to even address the blackout directly.