Twitch Finally Starts Banning Streamers Accused Of Sexual Abuse

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Photo: Martin Bureau, Getty
Photo: Martin Bureau, Getty

Over the weekend, over 50 people, mostly women, in and around the world of Twitch came forward to accuse streamers and other industry figures, mostly men, of sexual abuse. As the week has progressed, that number has swelled to nearly 100. After the initial wave of accusations, Twitch promised to investigate and potentially take action. Now it has — or at least, it’s started to.

Wednesday night, Twitch banned five streamers who have been accused of sexual misconduct: IamSp00n, Wolv21, BlessRNG, DreadedCone, and WarwitchTV. In a statement posted to its official blog, Twitch said that it is “reviewing each case that has come to light as quickly as possible, while ensuring appropriate due diligence.” It characterised the bans as “permanent suspensions,” meaning the streamers in question won’t be coming back.

Women who said they’d dealt with abuse from these particular streamers were amazed that, after all this time of Twitch failing to take meaningful action, the company actually did something.

“Honestly I’m mostly stunned,” LadyNasse, one of the streamers who spoke out about IamSp00n, told Kotaku in a DM. “I didn’t expect things to steamroll the way they have.”

After being accused of physical sexual abuse, aggression, and manipulation by multiple streamers, IamSp00n said in a note published on Twitter that he “directly benefited sexually” from his behaviour “while the people on the receiving end were negatively impacted” and encouraged readers to “believe” his accusers. In an email to Kotaku, he called the ban “appropriate” and said that he does “not see myself capable of ever returning to this industry.”

“I feel as though I should be happy or feel triumphant, but the entire situation is haunting,” said Littlesiha, a popular Just Dance streamer and one of the people who accused IamSp00n of misconduct, in an email. “Writing out my experience when I was sure I’d never tell it publicly was really difficult, and Sam (IAmSp00n) was someone I once cared for deeply. We were together for three years. There are times where I wonder if he’s ok, and I have to remind myself that the real question is if I’m ok.”

Krystal, a former Twitch streamer who said that banned streamer WarwitchTV exchanged sexually explicit messages with her when she was a minor, said she was surprised by Twitch’s action against him and other streamers.

“I’m extremely happy that Warwitch has been banned,” she told Kotaku in a DM. “I cried last night because it was so unexpected.”

In a note titled “No excuses” that has since been deleted alongside his Twitter account, WarwitchTV confirmed that he knew Krystal was 17 at the time they exchanged messages and that he had learned from his mistakes. But after he posted this message, another streamer came forward to say that he had sent her inappropriate messages as recently as last month. (This streamer asked that her name not be used and that her tweets not be linked.) WarwitchTV has not responded to Kotaku’s requests for comment.

Three other streamers were also banned, all for allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse. Wolv21 was accused of physically taking advantage of a woman at PAX East and sending unwanted sexual DMs. On Twitter, he said that “we did share a bed, I did put my arm around her, we did grind a little bit then that’s when I touched her breasts.” He then apologised and said he was “wrong.” Neither party in this incident has replied to Kotaku’s request for comment.

BlessRNG, a longtime streamer whose global emote has also been removed from Twitch, was accused of unwanted sexual advances as well as repeatedly attempting to make contact with the accuser after she broke off their relationship. After initially claiming that he, too, had been abused (resulting in significant pushback from friends and fans), he put out a second statement in which he said that he “engaged in abusive behaviour” and apologised. In a Twitter DM to Kotaku, BlessRNG said that he is seeking additional mental health therapy.

“While my story is by no means the ‘worse’ from those shared over the weekend, it was a relief seeing Twitch take real action within a reasonable timeframe,” the person who posted her story about BlessRNG told Kotaku via DM. “I sat at my desk in tears. I’m cautiously optimistic we will continue to see action taken in the next days and weeks as investigations take place and conclude.”

DreadedCone’s case goes further back. Two years ago, a viewer said that he had “groomed” her online, distributing nude photos of her when she was underage. At the time, the viewer said, Twitch did not do anything once the matter was brought to the platform’s attention, but after she re-told her story on Twitter as part of the recent wave of sexual abuse and harassment stories, Twitch finally took action. DreadedCone does not seem to have released a public statement; neither party to this matter responded to Kotaku’s requests for comment.

Twitch said in its blog post that it plans to “continue to assess accusations against people affiliated with Twitch and explore ways Twitch can collaborate with other industry leaders on this important issue” and improve both its policies and its tools. Encouraging words, but streamers and others in the industry agree that these bans will only suffice if they’re the beginning of a much larger overhaul, as opposed to caution tape around the pothole that’s slowly engulfing the whole platform.

“This first step addresses streamers on Twitch, but still no word on non-streamers in the wider community,” Twitch’s former vice president of community and partnerships, Justin Wong, said on Twitter. “Will they be barred from Twitch social events? Will Twitch continue to do business with their companies? What are they going to do when the low-hanging fruit is gone?”

He also offered some hypothetical scenarios that could push Twitch’s current approach past a breaking point: “Twitch has a partnership agreement with an esports team. Twitch finds an accusation against their CEO credible and issues a ban, but the CEO refuses to resign. What does Twitch do to the deal? What if it’s a non-public-facing position like a CFO? Another: A buyer purchases a seven-figure advertising campaign on Twitch. Twitch finds an accusation against the buyer credible, but the buyer remains in his position. Does Twitch still take the money? What happens to the seller’s commission since they’re under Amazon now?”

There is precedent for these concerns. One of the most significant accusations this week was leveled not against a streamer, but the (now-former) CEO of Online Performers Group, a management company. Meanwhile, the esports scene is now reckoning with its own sexism and harassment issues.

While noting that there are “no easy answers,” LadyNasse suggested that Twitch could create a team focused on responding to victims. “If there was someone I knew I could go to, privately, without risking my reputation and without risking backlash, I would’ve come forward a long time ago,” she said. “But the fact is that right now there is almost no way to out someone as abusive, predatory, or simply inappropriate, without risk right now.”

This moment was only possible, she noted, because of “the context of other women’s stories.” She thinks that needs to be systematized, or else things will just go back to the way they’ve always been.

“Once you put the stories side by side, the pattern emerges, and it becomes that much more awful,” she said. “So a victim response team of some kind is the only way I see that happening.”

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Comments

      • I’m not one to throw out a fair opportunity to defend yourself or to act on mere accusation alone, so to be fair you guys should consider the fact that the number of accusations that have come out recently vastly outweighs the number of bans from Twitch at the moment. The people banned thus far appear to have either admitted their actions or are cases where there is significant proof. In those cases it seems reasonable for Twitch to act, no?

        • I’ve seen people being shamed for presenting evidence in their own defense.
          Some believe that the only valid response to an accusation is a confession and a lifetime of contrition.

          At least the Inquisition had the dignity to also provide a swift death.

      • Meanwhile the world you’d have us live in is where people squawk in defence of sexual abusers and don’t read articles that explain these are indeed more than ‘just accusations’.

        Because if you did the latter you’d not be guilty of the former.

        However, something tells me you don’t care.

        • Nathan Grayson has a thing for insisting action isn’t being taken fast enough for his personal liking… Usually meaning that actually taking time to look into things and get to the truth takes a very distant back seat.

          But sure, you go ahead and read one article while flat out ignoring his history of being willing to hang people on nothing more than accusations alone.

          • Here you go buddy. Why don’t you have a read of the link below and try and understand why ‘accusations’ are pretty much all you’re going to get in this world.
            Because unsurprisingly, there are few witnesses when a dude rapes a 15 year old in his flat.
            Or in the vast majority of other circumstances.
            THAT IS WHY THESE DUDES DO IT.
            So yeah, have a read of this. And next time you’re about to hammer out a brave defence of dudes that were ‘ONLY ACCUSED NOT FOUND GUILTY IN COURT’ maybe think back to it, and also spend some time considering the social systems we have in place and how they are set up to protect abusers, not victims.

            Enjoy, as this is the end result of your posturing. It really is.

            https://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sr9oar

  • Hmmm, Nathan has been oddly silent about a twitch staff member that is quite high up being accused of some heinous things. In fact, it seems like a lot of the games media that is reporting on these events have been completely silent on Hassan Bokhari

    I wonder why?

    Everyone else’s accusation has been reported on, Apart from Hassan.

    https://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sr9pc9

    • It’s all the more strange when you consider Grayson’s historical and documented distaste for Twitch – if they ever have a misstep, there’s an article by him about it. If they ever do anything right, it’s “why did it take this long?” or “this isn’t enough” or “but what about *backlinks to articles about twitch*.”

      That this guy gets an exclusion is straight up bizarre.

      • Its not just Grayson.

        Pretty much all of the games media that has been reporting on MeToo Electric Boogaloo have been utterly silent on Hassan.

        He is pretty high up within twitch and you’d think they would want to scream his transgressions from the rooftops.

        • The allegations against Hassan look to be much newer than the claims/actions spoken about here but it’s started gaining traction in the past few days by the looks.

          • The allegations against him came out on the 25th of June, As shown in the twitlonger from the victim I linked.

            This article was posted after that date.

    • I wouldn’t be shocked if it was a legal thing. The vast majority (probably all?) of stories on alleged abuse on Kotaku come after either some sort of action (fired, loss of contract, legal case or even a con pulling them from their lineup), or if an accuser has spoken to Kotaku directly. This article is reporting on the action a company has done and an explanation why.

      I imagine are legal ramifications for simply amplifying allegations without being able to verify them first. Only a guess, though.

      • “I imagine are legal ramifications for simply amplifying allegations without being able to verify them first.”

        Yeah, imagine that….

        Something something gawker……
        Oh well.

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