Good plans are born after hours, days, or even months of meticulous planning, but the best plans emerge from dumb jokes. One day, Twitch streamer Xmiramira was doing her thing when a random came into chat spewing what she remembered as “racist crap”.
“Oh,” Xmiramira said in reply, “a wild cock has appeared.” Now her community’s entire anti-shithead defence system is built around that line.
The system, which she explained during TwitchCon’s “How to Grow & Navigate Twitch as a Streamer Of Color” panel, is elegant in its simplicity. It centres around an emote of a chicken hiding behind a bush — a sneaky cock, in other words. When community members start spamming it, that lets Xmiramira and her moderators know that somebody’s said something racist or otherwise harassing.
“Once I see all these chickens pop up, I’m like, ‘Who did it?’” she said during the panel. “My moderation team is really good, so usually they’re gone already. But we make jokes. We talk a lot of junk, and we make hella jokes. Sometimes it can be annoying, but most times we do make fun out of it, they get mad, and they leave.”
The emote is paired with a chat command — “!cock” — that gives people a quick, one-click link to access Twitch’s report form and instructions on how to report this particular kind of abuse. The command is also paired with fun messages such as “Have the yeehaw cousin-fuckers appeared?”
After the panel, Xmiramira told Kotaku that the idea was hatched thanks to her joke, but it didn’t really take flight until after she talked it through with her community.
“We discussed it for, like, a week,” she said. “We didn’t know whether we wanted to put a hot dog behind a bush, but then somebody suggested the chicken.
“That was a community effort. It wasn’t just me. It was members of the community sitting with me and us actively discussing what this emote would consist of and what context it’d be used in. If somebody’s trolling, throw the emote out. So it’s kind of an interactive, fun twist on it.”
It’s also an inversion of one of Twitch’s most unfortunate trends. Troll-y Twitch users frequently weaponize emotes against people of colour, the “Trihard” emote, which is just a picture of otherwise nice guy Trihex’s face, most infamous among them. People spam emotes such as that and the recent, thankfully temporary, KFC chicken bucket at black people as a means of pointing out that they’re different, or that they aren't welcome, or worse.
Xmiramira is glad she’s been able to turn that on its head. For her, though, it’s just an extension of an established dynamic within her community: They troll trolls.
“I remember one day somebody put a dick in my chat, but they used text characters to do it,” she said. “And I was like ‘Whose dick is that? That’s a nice dick. I think you could put that dick on a refrigerator.’ And the guy who made it got mad. He was like, ‘You’re not gonna delete it?’ And I was like, ‘Hell no! Somebody put that dick up on the wall.’
“And the community caught wind of what I was doing, and they were like ‘Man, that’s a nice dick. Can we get a picture?’ The dude got so damn mad, he just decided to leave.”
When it comes to Twitch chat racism and harassment, though, the effects become hurtful over time even if you’re able to laugh it off in the moment. Two of Xmiramira’s fellow TwitchCon panellists, Jennasaisquoi and Majintaj, recommended using third-party tools such as Nightbot and frequently updating block lists with things such as new spellings of slurs and lists of emotes that people are abusing.
Xmiramira, meanwhile, would like to see Twitch take a more active role in getting to the bottom of who’s brigading streamers with racist garbage.
“I know that it’s a common practice for people to create dummy accounts to write bullshit and whatever they want to,” Xmiramira said. “So what I would like Twitch to do is put more effort into penalising the main accounts. I don’t care if they’re a small streamer or a big streamer, there are people regardless of size and notoriety and popularity that sit in their free time and harass people.”
“You can block all 20 of those racist spam pages, but let’s work on finding the source,” she said. “Who is the main account? Obviously ‘Ihaten****rs76' is not their main account. They need to put more of a focus on finding and punishing these people, rather than just suspending or deleting the BS account. They can make 20. They have bots. These people need to be punished.”