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Twitch hate raids Minority streamers have a target on their back

Twitch hate raids Minority streamers have a target on their back
Henry

"I've been told to kill myself, called the T-slur for trans people, the F-slur for gay people and misgendered numerous times."

You might have seen hashtags like #DoBetterTwitch or #ADayOffTwitch trending over the past few weeks and months.

It's because of the flood of abuse that streamers, mainly from minority or marginalised communities are receiving on games streaming platform Twitch.

"Being so open about my identity is met with a lot of hate from people I don't know most of the time," Max, a bisexual transgender man - and Twitch streamer, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The trolling that users like 19-year-old Max experience is through something called hate raids - a type of coordinated harassment targeting mainly those from minority or marginalised communities.

What is a hate raid?

A "raid" is a feature on Twitch that lets streamers send their viewers to someone else's channel when they go offline, normally used to boost a smaller or new channel.

But in a hate raid, a user abuses this with bots - fake users that can be programmed to watch a channel or type in a chat - to overwhelm a streamer's chat section with hateful messages.

Some streamers have reported that can sometimes lead to accounts who've been victim to hate raids being banned - if they're also offline and unable to deal with slurs in chats and are then reported to the platform.

Twitch channels can have a chat function, and the platform's rules say streamers are responsible for moderating the content on their channel.

Twitch legal action

A Twitch spokesman told Newsbeat the platform was trying to deal with the problem and had filed lawsuits against people involved in "chat-based attacks against marginalised streamers".

"While we have identified and banned thousands of accounts over the past weeks, these actors continue to work hard on creative ways to circumvent our improvements, and show no intention of stopping," he added.

Maximage source, Max
image caption"Every time I've been hate raided or follow botted, I've reported it to Twitch and asked how they're going to fix the issue," Max says

Max, from South East England, has been streaming for a year because he wanted "to create more positive and realistic representation for trans people" on Twitch - but the abuse has become worse in recent months.

"What really upsets me is my community and viewers, seeing horrific messages spammed in my chat and not knowing what's going on."

"It's not nice when people come in and spam slurs in the chat when you're just trying to play a game and create a positive impact."

And that's something 23-year-old Sami, who was hate raided a few weeks ago, can relate to.

Samiimage source, Sami
image caption"I was anxious and it can be very traumatising," Sami says

"The targeted attacks I've been getting feel like they're based on me being a girl," the streamer, from Belgium, tells Newsbeat.

"My chat was spammed with hateful comments, sexualising comments, about me killing myself, tonnes of slurs like the N-word and the R-word."

"I was stunned, I didn't know what to do at the time," she adds.

Sami says she tried to keep streaming but stopped streaming for a week because she "didn't feel safe".

For 22-year-old Ty, he's suffered hate raids which have targeted his skin colour.

"It will be really vile comments about my appearance and racial slurs, it just shocks me," the 22-year-old from Gloucestershire tells Newsbeat.

"It's frustrating and upsetting to see words like the N-word being spammed through different characters while I'm live."

At its worst, he was hate raided every day for about a week, an hour into every stream.

'It shouldn't be difficult for a multi-billion dollar company'

Ty says he's sent emails to Twitch and wishes they were better at communicating with streamers.

"The only thing I've seen is they've acknowledged it's a problem and people talking about it. But it doesn't feel like it's done anything to stop it happening."

Max feels the use of channel tags, such as the LGBTQ, is used to single out minority streamers.

"It can also put a target on your back because hate raiders can just search the tag.

"The fact Twitch added that before any real protection for streamers, makes you feel left in the dark and uncared about."

Maximage source, Max
image captionMax feels there are "simple fixes or changes" that can be implemented to improve things

Max and Ty have both experienced trolls who've used symbols to replace English words to bypass any moderation - and they both want to see that fixed.

"These things shouldn't be too difficult for a multi-billion dollar company," Max says.

Sami believe moderation is an issue, with many streamers left to do it themselves which can be overwhelming in a hate raid.

"I don't have a lot of moderators, just friends who sometimes do it for me. And now I have to look for real ones to be able to protect me and my community so I can feel safe."

Samiimage source, Sami
image caption"Twitch doesn't really do anything other than saying they'll change something in the future"

Max, Ty and Sami all took part in a one day boycott of Twitch on 1 September - and feel the platform could learn from streamers who have created their own software to keep themselves safe from bots and hate raiding harassment.

"It should have been done by Twitch in the first place," Sami adds.

"I'm quite fed up of having to find my own solution to a problem they should be handling. It's not my platform, I just stream on it and provide content," Ty says.

"Help us moderate and give better tools to help safeguard our communities against these hate raids," he adds.

No one should have to experience malicious and hateful attacks based on who they are or what they stand for. This is not the community we want on Twitch, and we want you to know we are working hard to make Twitch a safer place for creators. https://t.co/fDbw62e5LW

— Twitch (@Twitch) August 20, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
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Twitch says the platform is "working hard" on improving detection "to help make Twitch a safer place for creators".

They "have a lot more work to do" but hoped this "will help reduce the immediate and unacceptable harm that targeted attacks have been inflicting on our community".

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