Culture

Twitch Sues Users Over “Hate Raids” Targeting Black, LGBTQ+ Creators


 

Live-streaming platform Twitch announced that it is suing multiple users for targeting Black and LGBTQ+ streamers with bigoted harassment last week.

Filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the 19-page suit accuses users “CruzzControl” and “CreatineOverdose” of conducting “hate raids” in August of this year. The defendants deployed bots to flood the streaming channels of marginalized creators with racist and homophobic content, including slurs and graphic depictions of violence.

Twitch stated in the suit that the defendants “continue to promote and engage in hate raids” despite efforts to ban them from the platform. The site is seeking restitution and a permanent injunction against the two users.

“If they are not stopped, Defendants will continue to harass and disrupt the Twitch community with hate raids,” the company states.

The “hate raids” described in the suit misuse the site’s “raid” tool, which allows Twitch users to send all their viewers to another channel as their stream ends. The tool was initially created with good intentions, giving streamers with large followings the ability to support smaller creators who may benefit from the exposure. It has been increasingly used, however, to flood the streams of marginalized creators with trolls and bot accounts hurling abusive insults.

Streamers note that these raids most often target Black, trans, disabled, and female streamers. Raids sometimes “dox” victims, revealing their phone numbers, names, or addresses. Doxxing is a dangerous phenomenon that has led to people being stalked and subjected to death threats or physical violence. Swatting, an extreme form of doxxing in which harassers call in a fake emergency to have SWAT teams sent to an individual’s home, has resulted in targets being killed.

In the suit, Twitch says that the raids “obstruct the chat so significantly” that streamers are prevented from engaging with their community of viewers, while being subjected to hate speech and at times prevented from streaming.

CruzzControl is allegedly responsible for over 3,000 bot accounts associated with the hate raids and has openly admitted to coordinating them, according to the suit. Twitch has also linked CreatineOverdose directly to the attacks and is accusing the user of spamming channels with messages including “racial slurs, graphic descriptions of violence against minorities, and claims that the hate raiders are the ‘KKK.’”

These coordinated attacks seriously impact people’s lives, as the suit claims. In addition to negatively affecting their mental health, they can lead to a decrease in income for Twitch streamers who rely on streaming as a revenue source.

While bigotry on Twitch is nothing new, the past month has seen an explosion of “hate raids,” according to tech publication The Verge. The deluge of hate led creators to organize the #ADayOffTwitch campaign to call for accountability and tools to combat the raids for streamers. Users were encouraged to not stream or view Twitch at all on September 1, resulting in the platform’s second-lowest viewership over the past 30 days, as fellow tech website Creatorhype reports.

In response to the action, Twitch promised updates to safety features, including improved banned word detectors and ways to pinpoint channels that are evading bans. The lawsuit is reportedly part of the company’s push to meet creators’ demands.

While the legal action is not a perfect solution, some users see it as a step in the right direction.

“It obviously doesn’t address the larger issues about how this still continues to happen, but does send a message that the people doing it can be found,” #ADayOffTwitch organizer LuciaEverblack told The Verge.

But it remains unclear whether these measures will be enough to keep marginalized creators on the platform in the face of tidal waves of abuse. While Twitch seems as though it is moving toward greater intentionality, Twitch user SistaKaren said they’re worried that it feels like “inclusion in name only.”

“If you don’t have a platform that’s safe for those streamers, then what’s the point of this performative B.S. that you’re doing?” they told video and advertising news site VideoWeek.

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