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You'd be forgiven if you had no idea what the #ADayOffTwitch hashtag means today (September 1, 2021), although you may have seen it floating around on social media. The issues that the Amazon-owned streaming platform is experiencing right now are nasty, and not just a little nasty, as we're talking dangerous and illegal territory, too. Streamers of marginalised backgrounds have been hit with waves of hate raids - bots filling chats with slurs and insults targeting attributes about the streamer, whether that be race, gender, sexuality and more.
Streams of almost any size are being flooded with follows, messages and emotes targeting whoever is online - and even when streamers aren't live, Discord channels and personal information is at risk. Twitch has lightly responded to these hate raids, as they've become known, promising that they are working to find solutions. But before it has found a medicine for the site's rife sickness, some streamers have organised to take #ADayOffTwitch.
With the drastically increasing number of people suffering hate raids and their detrimental effects on channels and their communities, some streamers are taking a stand. Twitch is by no means a perfect platform even without these issues. The cut of money Twitch takes from streamers, for example, is about 50/50, which makes it difficult for streamers to make a living from the platform, forcing creators to look at other support and revenue methods.
Twitch also has a discoverability issue, making it rare and difficult for anyone to "make it" by streaming on the platform alone, causing further disillusion. Even third-party software developers are doing a better job of providing tools to streamers to mass-block bots and known hateful accounts than the site itself is. The hate raids and Twitch's apparent failure to protect those it makes money from comprise the cement brick breaking the camel's back.
Now a question you might have is, "Why not just block offensive words?" You might say: "It seems pretty simple to identify the words you consider harmful to you, and put them into your blocked words list." And yes, that does seem like a simple solution - until you consider the number of non-English characters people can use in place of a word's regular letters. Thom Simonson on Twitter has an excellent video showing how hard it would be to block the word "jogger" in chat, for example.
So where does A Day Off Twitch come in? RekItRaven, a streamer directly affected by the hate raids and subsequent doxxing, is the face of the boycott. They were one of the loudest voices at the very beginning of this livestreaming nightmare, and they've continued to put pressure on Twitch to make a change. To do something.
When talking to RekItRaven, they tell me that they are being "actively hate raided on the platform". They continue: "It started last month and it's only gotten worse since. After being hate raided twice in a week I saw that other people were too, and I started the #TwitchDoBetter which blew up."
#TwitchDoBetter gained a lot of traction. Increasingly exhausted streamers joined in the call for Twitch to help those it uses for revenue, or risk losing them to rival streaming platforms like YouTube or Facebook Gaming. Eventually, with enough voices joining the call, Raven and other streamers saw potential.
"We're tired of being mistreated. [Twitch streamer] ShineyPen had approached me after #TwitchDoBetter took off to ask what else we can do, and we thought that it would be good to have a black-out day. That way it was more easily doable for people in situations that rely on the income from Twitch. We're honestly just tired of being attacked for things we cannot control."
When it comes to those who doubt the effectiveness of the protest, RekItRaven says: "People will always doubt, and they can. It doesn't mean that what we're doing isn't working. No one behind the movement thinks that one day is gonna solve everything. We know that this is only one step of many."
Raven and their team's (ShineyPen and Lucia Everblack) voice wasn't just heard by fellow streamers but it echoed all the way to Twitch who reached out to have a conversation about what they are doing behind the scenes. Although regular content creators aren't able to see what is changing yet, Raven confirms that the site is trying. "I can say that the team I talked to cares, but Twitch is a multi-headed beast. The team I spoke with is taking this seriously, I just hope that the rest of the moving parts do as well."
A Day Off Twitch has four main goals for the movement. These are:
As A Day Off Twitch has dawned, a few notable streamers and content creators have confirmed that they are in support of the protest and will refrain from streaming or watching content on the platform for the day. The Living Tombstone, for example, is taking a step back - you might know their music as a lot of it has gone viral in the past. Like the 'No Mercy' Overwatch tune TikTok has loved.
Just scrolling through Twitch, you can see names like AvaGG, Meg Turney, MTashed, Rhymestyle, CaseyExplosion, storymodebae, and many more are all voicing their support for the movement and taking the day off of streaming.
However there are those who are stream today too, and you know what, that's okay as well. There are those who have contractual obligations, those who need to stream every day to meet with expectations they've been set and need to aim for, or those who have simply not been aware of what's going on on Twitter, which is where a lot of information surrounding the hate raids has risen to more prominence.
Of course, there are those who genuinely aren't compelled by what is happening on the platform enough to support the day off, or don't think that #ADayOffTwitch will help. But at least there are enough voices involved in the boycott for Twitch to know how serious creators are about the issue at hand.
In a comment to The Verge, a Twitch spokesperson has responded to the boycott stating: "We support our streamers' rights to express themselves and bring attention to important issues across our service. No one should have to experience malicious and hateful attacks based on who they are or what they stand for, and we are working hard on improved channel-level ban evasion detection and additional account improvements to help make Twitch a safer place for creators."
As a final note, RekItRaven mentions that if you're at risk of being hate raided yourself, there are some things you should be thinking about going forward: "Make sure to utilise follower/sub only modes, turn raids off for anyone who isn't a friend, who you're following or a teammate. We're trying out Fossabot, and if you are being doxxed file a report with your local police department to try to set up a safety plan to reduce swatting events, and file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crimes Division, here." (The latter being of relevance to US readers, of course.)
We hope that Twitch has at least a meaningful response to the hate raids, and that we see it in the coming weeks. The clock is ticking on the patience of many streamers who have had enough, but if the site shows its commitment to protecting its community many streamers may just stick around. Though, increasingly, YouTube is surely a tempting offer right now.
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