2020 was a remarkable year for major streamer bans on Twitch, but 2021 has been something else. In many ways, the last 12 months have been much darker and harder: Instead of laughing at self-incriminating Call of Duty cheaters or wondering why Dr. Disrespect was banned, so we marginalized streamers struggled with violent audiences that Twitch was unable to control, while copyright disputes and mismanagement remained a thorn in everyone’s side.
A massive security breach in October exposed the entire platform and dragged the platform into the mainstream spotlight for a while: A digital security expert said the situation was “as bad as it could possibly be.” Still, the crisis quickly blew over, at least in public, and by mid-December, the biggest argument was whether streaming qualified as work or not. Life, as they say, goes on.
Here is our summary of the biggest Twitch controversies of 2021:
In January 2021, Twitch decided to remove the old PogChamp emote after fighting game personality Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez – the face of the emote – expressed support for the US Capitol riot on January 6th. Shortly after, it decided to bring the feeling back, with a new streaming personality taking on the role of PogChamp every 24 hours.
Unfortunately, it did not go quite well when some daily PogChamps were met with racism, homophobia and other forms of abuse when their turn at the contact was announced. Twitch said the program had received “an overwhelmingly positive response” from the community and selected streamers, but also tacitly acknowledged that there were issues, adding that it was “in close contact with PogChamp’s new faces to provide support as needed. ”
The idea between a rotating community PogChamp was a great idea, and when I was asked, I jumped in right away when I knew what it could mean. I expected racism. I did not expect the chaos that followed. You just have to know that your day will be HARD. But you are PogChamp for a reason. ❤️January 12, 2021
After a month, Twitch went back to a permanent PogChamp: A Komodo dragon.
On January 7, the day after the Capitol Hill rioters failed to prevent the deployment of Joe Biden, Twitch suspended then-President Donald Trump’s account to “protect our society and prevent Twitch from being used to incite further violence. ” Hitting down a social media account from a sitting U.S. president was a remarkable move, though not without precedent: Trump’s account had been suspended for two weeks in 2020 for violating Twitch rules against hate speech and harassment.
Twitch said the status of Trump’s account would be reassessed on January 20, after he was absent, but when the time came, it decided to make the ban indefinitely. “The president’s statements continue to be interpreted as calls for action, and we are taking this action to remove the potential for harm to our society and the general public,” Twitch said at the time. The account remains disabled.
Aging metalworkers Metallica performed during the online-only-only BlizzCon 2021 in February, which was undoubtedly a highlight for fans who watched YouTube or Twitch or through Blizzard’s own website. Over at Twitch Gaming, however, things got a little weird: When the band broke into an interpretation of For Whom the Bell Tolls, the music was suddenly replaced by ridiculously “plinky-plonk twinkling.”
Rock and roll, honey!
Astonished viewers quickly found out that the song was replaced with royalty-free music due to Twitch’s long, controversial history with the music industry and DMCA takedowns. It was all more silly than controversial, but it put the spotlight on the really bizarre relationship between Twitch and music publishers and the challenges that streamers have to navigate while handling it.
In May, megastreamer Amouranth reported that Twitch had suspended her ability to run commercials on her channel. It eventually emerged that her ‘hot tub streams’ were the problem: Although it did not violate any specific Twitch rules, she was told that any content, even if approved by Twitch, is not suitable for all advertisers.
The real problem, however, was not the specific content, but that Amouranth’s ads were suspended without notice: Not only was she not given the opportunity to resolve the issue in advance, she was not even told that a revenue stream was changed at all. The battered moderation was another example of Twitch’s infamous lack of transparency, even with its top streamers in some cases. However, Twitch quickly managed to come up with a practical and very reasonable solution to the problem of sexually suggestive streams: A few days after Amouranth reported its advertising suspension, Twitch added a whole new category called Pools, Hot Tubs and Beaches.
A month after all that with the hot tub, Twitch lowered the bar on the hot new trend in ASMR: Simulated ear licking while wearing yoga pants. Once again, Amouranth was at the center of it, and once again, Twitch failed to explain exactly what the problem was. But it was widely seen as yet another example of arbitrary, even whimsical moderation by Twitch, based not on rules but on someone’s perception of inappropriate content, especially since Twitch had said in the wake of the hot tub controversy that “to be found for being sexy by others is not against our rules, and Twitch will not take enforcement action against women or anyone in our service for their perceived attractiveness. “
And just like this controversy, it also seemed to blow over quickly and with minimal lasting consequence: Twitch’s ASMR category remains filled with streamers licking ears in all sorts of different attire.
This seemed pretty funny at first: a world-famous rocker accidentally puts sound out of himself for an entire week without noticing it. However, it eventually emerged that Twitch was responsible for the muting because Snoop understandably likes listening to music while streaming, and streaming of copyrighted music is against the rules. Like the Metallica incident at BlizzCon, it was a ridiculous example that livestreaming platforms like Twitch could not find affordable housing in the music industry.
One of the biggest challenges Twitch faced in 2021 was an alarming rise in “hate raids” – organized attacks on marginalized streamers where bot accounts flood chat channels with slander and threats. After months of struggling with it, streamers organized a virtual protest in which they all agreed not to stream for a 24-hour period.
#ADayOffTwitch, which took place in September, made a deep cut in Twitch viewership. Twitch had acknowledged the problem prior to the protest, and after it released new account verification options and an automated ban evasion detector to help remedy it. The company also filed a lawsuit against two hate raiders based in Europe.
After a year in which thousands of DMCA removal requests were issued due to copyrighted music being played over streams, Twitch took a major step toward addressing its long-standing beef with the music industry through a September deal with National Music Publishers’ Association to “build productive partnerships between the service and music publishers.” Good news!
The bad news was that the only benefit for streamers is a slightly more forgiving infringement system: Now, “accidentally or accidentally” using copyrighted music in a stream will result in a warning first, rather than an immediate loss of the hammer. In a statement, Twitch reminded its streamers that the use of copyrighted music in a stream, in any case, “violates the rights of music creators and is contrary to Twitch’s mission to support all creators.”
This is the big one. In October, Twitch suffered a massive security breach that exposed everything from source code to streamer revenue. It was “as bad as it could possibly be,” said ThreatModeler CEO Archie Agarwal, though it turned out that user passwords and other personal details were not revealed, so maybe it was a little less bad than it could have been.
Still, it was big: Top streamer incomes were revealed, as was the fact that only a very, very small number of streamers come close to “big time.” Big-timers also benefited from the existence of a secret “do not ban” list at a time that tattered some feathers, even though in reality it seemed to be more of a necessary moderation tool than an unfair advantage to anyone. We also learned about the completely unexpected existence of an unreleased Steam competitor called Vapor, and a lengthy money laundering scheme that attracted the attention of the Turkish government.
Surprisingly, it all seemed to blow over relatively quickly. Twitch engineers may not see it that way, but we changed our passwords, a handful of streamers had fun with it, and then life went on.
Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek attracted attention in December when he said he enjoys streaming so much because “work stinks.” If his point was not clear enough, he later clarified, “Streaming is work? No, it’s not work, it’s a damn joke. Look, I’m sitting here doing nothing.”
Shroud is obviously one of the biggest streamers in the industry, so his dismissive comments attracted a little bit of attention. Streamers work hard, and the vast majority of them do so solely for personal enjoyment: Only a small number ever get close to the top of the pile. In context, his statement almost certainly referred only to his own personal position: His working days came relatively early in his career as an e-sports professional; now he has created his name and built his audience and he can comfortably kiss – a very lucky and extremely rare position to be in.
Just a few weeks before the end of the year, popular streamer Hasan “HasanAbi” Girls was suspended from Twitch for saying “cracker” during a stream. Of course, there was rapid debate as to whether “cracker” is in fact a racist spell, with a few going so far as to call it the “c-word,” and inadvertently emphasizing the inherent ridiculousness of the whole by indirectly pointing out that in contrast for actual racist incantations, we can actually use the word “cracker” without fear of being thrown out of public places or assholes.
HasanAbi’s suspension eventually lasted a week. On day six, he expressed eagerness to get back to it, and a very subtle lack of regret.
BING BONG! SEE YOU TOMORROW AT 11.00 PACIFIC LETSGOOOOOO https://t.co/1T9rV5m8dQ pic.twitter.com/CwzNXphWStDecember 21, 2021