Before the Fall

Recent events at Twitch ranging from continuous, unaddressed hate raids from bots (complete with its own hashtag) to the positioning of Subtember the day after a number of creators have opted to avoid streaming on Twitch in an effort to draw Twitch’s attention to doing more and better for their creators have prompted this writing. 

It’s time for a conversation. Mind, this conversation is in no way new; I want to credit creators like Chasinglux among others have been talking about this long before this month or even this year. She adds updated thoughts here. The writing is incisive and direct as are most things she speaks on.

Now, let’s get into it.

YOU WANNA SEE A REVOLUTION…

Some of us landed on the side of pushing the platform we are on to do better. What we’ve run into on that side is a company that consistently ignores its marginalized audience except the moments where it can profit on those audiences. Like Pride Month or Black History Month.

To Twitch’s credit, they did really well with how they handled those months. The problem is… literally any other time of the year for those audiences. 

We’ve seen the words “incel”, “simp”, and “virgin” purged from the platform along with the “pools and hot tubs” category added at the behest of male creators with 0.3 CCV and lackluster content, yet somehow people can put the n-word in their literal username and go unchecked.

We’re rightfully tired, but yet some hope that if we are consistent in holding Twitch accountable, it will bend the ear of someone who is powerful enough to implement these changes. Tools have been built, services provided, in some cases truths have been uncovered regarding how much effort has gone into fixing the problem.

We’re on year five and counting, if you wanted to know.

Others of us landed on the side of full fury. We’ve seen hate raids go unchecked for weeks most recently and years before then. Hashtags were made, clips were shared, conversations were begged for and the most anyone has received are some one-on-one convos with a creator here or there, a milquetoast response from this Public Access broadcast and corresponding tweets, and a poorly-timed Subtember ad only 24 hours after a number of content creators decided to have a day off of streaming

We’ve had enough of this and have moved in various ways to force the hand of Twitch, cosigned to the grim reality that Twitch has no real intention to protect the marginalized creators on the platform. Some left streaming altogether even as it provides much of their income. Others are seeking ways to outsource the ways by which their subscribers can support them off-platform with other services like Ko-fithe new monthly subscription service offered by Streamlabs, and alternate streaming services. Some more established like FB Gaming or Youtube. Others only just coming into our awareness like Altair or Glimish.

For those of us with the time and privilege, we’ve even looked into building our own systems and streaming from those places.

Honestly, across the board, we just want the places we exist and have built community to be safe and our determination fuels our effort to get somewhere we can do that. 

WELL, YOU KNOW…

Although our frustration is founded, it stops at the question of “what” (we want the hate raids to stop) and doesn’t go far enough into “how” we accomplish the deeper things we want beyond a hashtag and/or a particular event.

Do we want hate raids to stop? Yes. Beyond that, however? Here’s other things we’ve asked for:

  1. More moderation tools
  2. More effective moderation tools
  3. Consistent enforcement of the rules of the platform regardless of gender
  4. A clear stance on racism, sexism, ableism, transmisia, from Twitch that they are accountable to
  5. A regular report on plans, goals, timelines, and progress toward the things above
  6. Retrospectives on how those plans, goals, and progress have gone on a consistent basis

Let’s get blunt here: Twitch has a Creator Safety council. They have not been consulted for any of this. How do we know? Members of that council have only just come into the conversation on hate raids with suggestions for solutions that have been discussed complete with tools that were built to realize those solutions. When I talk about things we’ve asked for, I mean addressing things like this.

Then there’s the day off Twitch to consider (or being off of Twitch at all to consider if you have any kind of contract or sponsorship with a company, for that matter). A demographic that makes up less than 10% of the platform proposes that the company who clearly ignores their many loudly-voiced concerns from their affiliates, partners, ambassadors, and staff believes that this company is going to take notice of their missing a day of streaming beyond appeasement without sustained effort in protesting the platform in this way. That’s the truth we are looking at.

In the interim, we’re looking at constant uprooting, moving, hoping our communities come along. Knowing in many cases, the industry always lags so sponsorships, partnerships, and so on will always lag behind. Bringing a lot of people somewhere doesn’t guarantee anything until the platform is proven and profitable. 

The sacrifice is always on black people in this case and marginalized folks in general and while we are adding extra credit questions to purity tests across the board, we get nothing but a brief pause between hailstorms from one platform after another.

WE ALL WANNA CHANGE THE WORLD?

For the record, I absolutely support people using the voice and power they can to get and keep things moving forward as much as they can, we have to start somewhere so a day off of Twitch is as good an idea as any. The question comes after that. What lies beyond that day? Is it another day? A week?

Because here is the tea: what is going to get the attention and response we want is concerted, sustained effort on a united front that involves us first and foremost. The truth is that the people organizing this day off from Twitch aren’t people who have a ton of experience organizing things like this – and quite possibly activism in general – and while there is something to be said about perfection being the enemy of progress, there are some sharks in these waters. 

We have some uncomfortable things to discuss.

In many situations like this, our pain is channeled into one event and that event becomes a spectacle for other people. I have to say: this was one of those times. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. This isn’t the second time, either. It’s important that we learn to recognize the early signs that we should be asking far more questions and holding ourselves accountable. Let’s get into it (with bullets for easy reading).

  • Are we many or are we one? When it comes to a movement like this, do we see the efforts of many being recognized or does all of it lead back to putting a single entity in the spotlight? Can you point to a single person and say that the success of the mission rests on them? Spoiler: the answer should be no. Sure, there can be recognized people or faces if they contribute a lot; we love to recognize people who are on the ground and doing the work. They absolutely deserve their flowers! But when it comes to a movement, we have to be ready to put ourselves aside and make sure to move the cause forward. We do ourselves a great disservice otherwise.
  • Are we creating purity tests? There’s something to be said about knowing when someone is down for the cause or not, but are people putting undue stress to engage the problem a certain way. When the people that we claim to be doing this for say they disagree and offer critique or alternatives, are they dismissed? Do we threaten to remove them from our spaces without understanding their contexts? A few people did this go round and there’s something to be said about who they were. A movement that erases any of us isn’t for us or about us. Understand this and resist it at every turn.
  • Is anyone profiting from this? When our pain is on display, people and companies are drawn to us like moth to flame. Offers may show up out of nowhere. Suddenly, we’re asked to be on panels and podcasts and publications. To share our thoughts on opinions on the Awful Things We Are Going Through™. It’s an easy trap to fall into; for things like protests to work, they have to be disruptive and that means that they have to be seen in a way that grabs attention. The attention shows up, but then… what happens when you get it? When we see that visibility being turned away from what benefits all of us to what benefits one of us, it should raise concern. When we see anyone convinced that they are responsible for speaking for all of us, it should raise concern. When the attention to speak on important issues bleeds into holding onto that attention to elevate ourselves at the cost of what the movement should stand for, it should raise concern. Every time.
  • Who is guarding this castle? How are we dealing with call-ins or critique from our people? Are we dismissing people without addressing their concerns? Do we immediately invalidate them as haters? Do we see them as obstacles in our way? Do we only listen to people who agree with us without questioning? Remember, these are the people we said we were here to help. Also, are we allowing people to become so associated with us on a parasocial level that they act as sword and shield whenever questions or critique show up? Do we find people acting as the magnanimous and gentle figure who tells everyone to “just get along” rather than encouraging people to look at multiple perspectives from the very start?
  • FUBU (if you get it, you get it). As it regards movements in BIPOC spaces – and in this case, black spaces specifically – are we ignoring the other black and brown voices around us in favor of white voices? Are we letting colorism creep in or are we stopping it at the door? Whose approval are we looking for? I’m going to level with you here: when it comes to movements among black folks, some of us suffer from seeking white approval and that has to be kept firmly in check.

When it comes to how this whole thing has done leading up to the day off – which was very successful in what it intended to do – we have a ways to go in recognizing these dangers and asking – or answering – these questions. 

Days after announcing the plan to take a day off, large creators were tagged and asked to participate. Most of them weren’t BIPOC. Two of them left the platform. One of them was vocally opposed. None of them have been particularly outspoken for issues that impact black or brown people.

Reminder that it wasn’t just one, but at least three white creators being tagged for an issue that centers on black people. Meanwhile, black people who spoke up asking questions, offering alternatives, or asking for nuance were summarily dismissed, subjected to colorist statements, and threatened to be banned from spaces as unsafe if they didn’t decide not to stream on one particular day.

I also want to point out that none of the people who were so willing to take these extreme actions seem to have that energy where the aftermath of the day off is concerned.

We’ve gotten none of what we asked for, people are burnt out on the effort they’ve put in to keep us protected and have gone largely unrewarded or recognized.

Also in that timeframe:

  • Conversations were driven into DMs
  • Podcasts invitations happened
  • Multiple publications got their clicks on talking about this
  • People who provided critique to the movement were labeled haters and ignored
  • The face on the movement got catapulted to partner status
  • Centrism crept in as people tried to reach across the table because “we need these allies” (even though the same allies came for other black and brown people in the space and went unchecked).

Opportunities and social capital are flowing in one direction. People got their podcasts, panels, and thinkpieces and the rest of us were left with dust. I’m sitting in at least four chats as mod worried for the well-being of people I’ve come to care for because things have been left unaddressed even as we celebrate that there was tangible impact on the Twitch platform for the day we were gone (as much as we were able to be). The bots are still unaddressed. The communication from Twitch to its base is scant if not entirely nonexistent. 

To be real specific, I ran an update and had 21,000 new bans added to my list two nights ago and I’m a little bitter about that.

In the wake of the last two weeks, I have questions about what we value, who we look to as representations of what we value, and why. I can’t help going back to a few months ago when we had a large falling out in the community because there was a similar pattern of happenings, lack of open discussion and transparency, and a major falling out when the call-ins became callouts and the questions started being asked.

Not too long before that, it was a different person in a different space with the same pattern and that falling out hurt a lot of people, too.

BIPOC who tried to call people in or called things out there were called contentious and dismissed as haters. Non-BIPOC were dismissed as racist. When it all went down, the people who were ignored were asked not to tell people “I told you so” after being vindicated but also? They were never apologized to for being pushed out of spaces where they tried to bring things to light. Those wounds are still present and we’re steadily (and swiftly) on our way to reopen them.

The last time we were here, we didn’t speak openly and honestly until it was too late and people were deeply involved… and deeply hurt. I want to give these words to anyone who reads in an effort to avoid that. Let’s take a close look together on main and get into the mess of this on main and move forward in truth before the next spectacle and subsequent attempts to profit on our pain come around.

🌻👑

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