Twitch and Reddit protests may be just the beginning
how strong Do users have to influence the ways tech companies govern their platforms? This week, prominent Twitch and Reddit users separately coordinated two actions to rock the platform with the goal of making the digital spaces in which they work and play safer. In the latter case, at least, they seem to have already seen results.
On Twitch, top broadcasters went on strike Wednesday under the hashtag #ADayOffTwitch to push the company to end an ongoing wave of harassment against marginalized streamers. Meanwhile, on Reddit, moderators have made dozens of subreddits private to protest the company’s policies around Covid disinformation. Speaking with WIRED, regulators feel cautious optimism that their actions helped spur change.
“Maybe I’m a dreamer,” says Twitch Streamer Raven. “I think we need to normalize the ability to make change on our own.”
Raven, who goes to RekItRaven on Twitch, helped lead the #ADayOffTwitch initiative on Wednesday in response to the platform’s harassment epidemic known as hate raids — a massive and often coordinated bot attack that floods text chats of fanatic criticism. Over the past month, trolls and their bots have regularly entered Raven’s Twitch channel and filled their conversation with derogatory language, including messages like, “This channel now belongs to the KKK.” Harassers targeted and published black hackers’ addresses and personal information as well, which led to defamation incidents being reported. While hate raids have been a perennial issue on Twitch, the problem has escalated dramatically over the past month.
Last month, Raven launched the hashtag #TwitchDoBetter to pressure Twitch to prevent bot accounts from harassing them. Soon, Twitch acknowledged the problem, Twitter On August 11, “We know we need to do more to address these issues.” The company added that it was able to “identify a vulnerability” in its filtering system and released an update to identify hate speech more comprehensively. However, hate raids continued.
Raven is overwhelmed but feels it is unfair that they or anyone else marginalized should choose between doing what they love and their mental health. And for people whose livelihoods depend in part on the influx, hate raids can affect income as well. Tanya DePass, the Twitch Streamer powered by CypherOfTyr, has limited its broadcasts from two to four days a week to just one or two. You ask, “What job can take 50 percent of your earnings and do nothing to protect you other than go, Here are the tools we see now that bot creators and modders can navigate easily? (Twitch takes 50 percent of subscription revenue for Partnered Streamers. The revenue breakdown for donations on the platform is less clear.)
#ADayOffTwitch has asked livestream creators to stay away from the platform to raise awareness of the hate-mongering epidemic. More than 10,000 fewer people have been streaming live Wednesday afternoon compared to the same time in recent days, according to data from TwitchTracker. Their goal has been partially achieved, Raven says: “People are talking about this all over the world. We have created a sense of solidarity. Twitch has responded and met me.”
In a statement to WIRED, a Twitch spokesperson said the company supports “streaming rights” to express themselves and bring attention to important issues across our service… We’re working hard on improving channel-wide block evasion detection and additional account improvements to help make the place more accessible. Safe for creators.
On Reddit, users frustrated with the company’s policies also get what they asked for. Over the past week, moderators in dozens of affiliate forums, some with millions of subscribers, have orchestrated a blackout to protest the platform’s acceptance of Covid disinformation. They switched their subreddits to private and posted messages accusing Reddit of failing to enforce policies against misinformation. Some have called on Reddit to remove communities dealing in false information about Covid prevention and vaccination. These communities have also been known to form other subgroups, which means members will jump into other subgroups and email them with lies about the antiparasitic drug ivermectin or the effectiveness of vaccines. (Reddit/r/NoNewNormal, a large sub-team skeptical of scientifically proven Covid treatments, says about 80 of these bridles over a 30-day period.)