In a week which has seen hundreds of people accuse various streamers of sexual harrassment, abuse, and predatory behaviour, Twitch are investigating allegations and seem to have started bans. "Those who have come forward have shown incredible strength, vulnerability, and bravery," Twitch said. Many of the alleged incidents took place off Twitch and it sounds like they're planning to police not just their own service but the community they helped create.
The accusations are distressingly familiar. Sending sexual pictures unsolicited to fans and colleagues. Rape. Physical assault. Using their status to pressure people. Sabotaging employment opportunities for women who wouldn't sleep with them. Starting sexual conversations with minors. Being controlling and abusive in relationships. Gaslighting. Cheating on partners with fans. Taking and sharing nude photos of people without their consent. And more problems endemic in society.
Allegations started on Twitter amongst the Destiny 2 streaming community last week, and accusations have been made against dozens of streamers, from relative unknowns to some with hundreds of thousands of followers. Several high-profile streamers have admitted to behaviour they're accused of. Twitch first acknowledged the accusations on Monday, saying they would investigate. They followed up with a fuller statement on Wednesday.
"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," Twitch said. "We've prioritised the most severe cases and will begin issuing permanent suspensions in line with our findings immediately."
While Twitch do not state reasons for bans, several of the accused have been banned in recent days. Their policy of not explaining bans has caused a fair bit of drama by leaving people to assume those reasons. Last night, Twitch banned "DrDisrespect", a streaming celebrity who recently signed a two-year exclusivity contract with a "life-changing" amount of money to keep him (and his four million followers) on Twitch. With Twitch not saying why, people are looking to whispers and hints in his final stream to guess. The timing of the ban is seen by many as an implication of wrongdoing, even though the service is known to be plagued with copyright bans lately, and Twitch's silence fuels drama.
While some of the alleged behaviour was on Twitch's services, and is therefore relatively for them to investigate, this was the outpouring of a community. Alleged incidents happened over texts, at conventions, in bars, and in friendships and relationships. It's about what Twitch streamers did in their personal lives, not just on Twitch. It seems Twitch plan to police the communities they helped create, and the behaviour of people they want associated with their service.
"In many of the cases, the alleged incident took place off Twitch, and we need more information to make a determination," the statement said. "In some cases we will need to report the case to the proper authorities who are better placed to conduct a more thorough investigation."
That does sound slightly more concerning. It should be for victims to decide if they wish to go to the authorities. Evidently, lots of people didn't want to and kept quiet for a long time, then only telling their stories to their community. The experience of reporting sexual offences is often traumatic in itself, and the police and legal systems are bad with cases of sexual abuse and famously oblivious to the Internet. I hope that's something Twitch will only do in exceptional circumstances, when strictly required.
Twitch, like many gaming companies, are starting to take these issues seriously far too late. In 2018, a streamer who assaulted his pregnant then-partner during a Fortnite stream (a crime he was later convicted of) was banned for only 14 days. It took public outcry for Twitch to ban him again. Sexual harrassment is rife in Twitch chat too, with their current moderation policies evidently insufficient. They didn't really pay attention until accusations against dozens of Twitch streamers dominated headlines and inspired similar movements amongst game development and the games media too.
"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," Twitch said. "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."
Twitch launched in 2011. In 2014 it was bought for $970 million by Amazon, a company valued at $1 trillion.