Amazon-owned streaming site Twitch faced calls for a 24-hour blackout in protest of what campaigners say is the platform’s failure to act quickly or thoroughly enough to stamp out sexual harassment and racial abuse.
The hashtag #TWITCHBLACKOUT was trending as streamers, most of whom specialize in broadcasting their video game sessions, close their channels for the day.
There has been a significant rise in accusations of abusive behavior, with dozens of women claiming sexual assault while working in the games industry.
Protestors believe that Twitch hasn’t acted where specific sexual assault claims are made against specific, identifiable perpetrators on the platform.
As with any strike, streamers who have chosen to take part are risking loss of income, but equally starve Twitch of viewers. Many, however, feel it hasn’t gone far enough.
While the majority of those taking part are striking, there’s a significant cohort who argue that silence is exactly the wrong approach and that users should instead be discussing the issues concerning them in their streams.
Still, more have decided not to take part as they felt the event was too rushed to be effective.
Amazon/Twitch says it takes all accusations of sexual harassment seriously.
In an act of spectacular timing, a California ‘sex addict’ filed papers to sue Twitch for $25m, claiming it has exposed him to “overly suggestive and sexual content”.
Citing a number of mental health problems, court papers reveal that the plaintiff, Erik Estavillo’s argument centres around the 786 female streamers (no dudes) he follows:
“Twitch has extremely exacerbated his condition by displaying many sexually suggestive women streamers through Twitch’s twisted programming net code, making it nearly impossible for the plaintiff to use Twitch without being exposed to such sexual content.”
Estavillo, who has a history of failed lawsuits, won’t be dissuaded:
“In addition, Twitch also takes advantage of the plaintiff and many other sexually addicted viewers by allowing them to ‘Subscribe, Donate, or Pay Bits’ to these women streamers.”
The papers go on to compare the effect on sex addicts as similar to that of a casino environment on a problem gambler.
The $25m claim, which is described as a “request for relief” (at least he hasn’t lost his irony), forms part of a proposed settlement that would also see the 786 streamers in question permanently banned from Twitch for being too attractive.
Estavillo says the money will be split between himself and other Twitch Prime Turbo subscribers. Any left would be donated to COVID-19 relief and Black Lives Matter charities.