How much power Should users influence the way technology companies manage their platforms? This week, prominent Twitch and Reddit users separately coordinated two platform shaking actions in a bid to make the digital spaces they work and play in safer. In the latter case, at least, it seems they’ve already seen results.
On Twitch, top streamers went on strike Wednesday under the #ADayOffTwitch banner to push the company to end a wave of harassment against marginalized streamers. On Reddit, meanwhile, moderators have made dozens of subreddits private to protest the company’s policies regarding Covid disinformation. Speaking with WIRED, the organizers are cautiously optimistic that their actions have helped spur change.
“Maybe I’m a dreamer,” says Twitch streamer Raven. “I think we need to normalize our ability to really change ourselves. “
Crow, passing RekItRaven on Twitch, helped spearhead Wednesday’s #ADayOffTwitch initiative in response to an outbreak of harassment on the platform known as Hate Raids – a massive and often coordinated bot attack that floods the text chats of vitriol streamers fanatic. Over the past month, trolls and their bots have regularly entered Raven’s Twitch channel and filled their discussion with derogatory material, including messages such as “This channel now belongs to the KKK”. The stalkers also targeted and published the addresses and personal information of black streamers, which led to reported incidents by doxxing. While hate raids are a recurring problem on Twitch, the problem has significantly increased in the past month.
Raven from last month launched the hashtag #TwitchDoBetter to pressure Twitch to stop bot accounts from harassing them. Shortly after, Twitch recognized the problem, Tweeter on August 11 that “we know we need to do more to resolve these issues.” The company added that it was able to “identify a vulnerability” in its screening system and rolled out an update to more fully identify hate speech. However, the heinous raids continued.
Raven is exhausted, but thinks in her heart that it’s unfair that they or any other marginalized streamer has to choose between doing what they love and their sanity. And for people whose livelihoods depend in part on streaming, hate raids can also impact income. Tanya DePass, a passing Twitch streamer CypherOfTyr, limited its streaming from two to four days a week to one or two. She asks, “What job can take 50% of your income and do nothing to protect you except leave?” Here are those tools that we see now that these bot makers and raiders can easily navigate? “(Tic take a 50 percent reduction in subscription revenue for partner streamers. The breakdown of income split for donations on the platform is less clear.)
#ADayOffTwitch has asked streamers to step away from the platform to raise awareness about the hate raid outbreak. More than 10,000 fewer streamers were streaming live Wednesday afternoon compared to the same time in recent days, according to data from TwitchTracker. Raven says their goal is partially met: “People are talking about it all over the world. We have created a feeling of solidarity. Twitch responded and met me.
In a statement to WIRED, a spokesperson for Twitch said the company supports “the right of streamers to speak out and bring attention to important issues across our service. . . We’re working hard on better channel-level ban breakout detection and additional account improvements to help make Twitch a safer place for creators.
On Reddit, users frustrated with Reddit’s policies also get what they asked for. Over the past week, moderators of dozens of subreddits, some with millions of subscribers, coordinated a blackout to protest the platform’s admission of Covid disinformation. They replaced their subreddits with private and posted messages accusing Reddit of failing to enforce anti-disinformation policies. Some have demanded that Reddit remove communities that spread false information about Covid prevention and vaccination. These communities are also known to form other subreddit, which means that members jump into other subreddit and spam them with lies about the pest control drug Ivermectin or the effectiveness of vaccines. (Reddit says / r / NoNewNormal, a large subreddit skeptical of scientifically proven Covid treatments, launched around 80 of these squads over 30 days.)