There are some big questions being asked about streaming giant Twitch as current and former employees have made a string of dramatic accusations against the company.
When Twitch streamers called for a blackout in support of the hundreds of women who shared stories of sexual assault and abuse at the hands of streamers on the platform, the company remained pretty quiet at first. By the end of June, CEO Emmett Shear decided to share an internal email he’d sent to employees addressing the allegations. In a tweet, Shear stated that he heard the community’s voices.
There’s been a lot of important conversation happening over the previous couple days, and I’ve heard your voices. I’d like to share the email I just sent internally to the company on the topic. pic.twitter.com/B1V34lT9EI
— Emmett Shear (@eshear) June 23, 2020
But by then, many in the streaming community was already calling for Shear to step down from the company to account for what was being called a lack of leadership. A Twitch partner had revealed there was evidence of Shear dismissing, and even laughing about, ongoing sexual harassment against content creators in the past.
“This is Twitch culture. Sweep the ugly stuff under the rug for profit,” streamer Starling stated.
Shortly after Shear shared the email, a female employee came forward with allegations of systemic sexism, racism, and abuse, which she shared anonymously with Game Industry Biz. She said she felt compelled to speak out because of the other women coming forward with their own stories. She felt Twitch was lying about creating a safe community.
The employee explained that Twitch “repeatedly swept accounts of harassment and abuse under the rug.” This included sexual, verbal, and physical abuse, as well as racism. She said it took place at the office, in meetings, and at events, making it “rampant and unavoidable.”
Since this claim, Game Industry Biz states they have talked with 16 other Twitch employees “from every era of the company.” A few of them, said the report, never saw anything sexist or racist, but most had stories confirming the original employee’s allegations. The most common complaint was that Twitch didn’t take its female employees seriously.
One former employee recalled that “It was a boys’ club,” and said that women were treated as “prey.”
Multiple female employees admitted that they were sexually assaulted by men at the company. This includes forced kissing, groping, and inappropriate messaging. It was said that even the higher-up employees participated in this degrading behavior. When the behaviors were reported to HR, nothing seemed to happen.
One woman was even told to show her harasser “respect.” The reported men were often given raises and promotions.
Many men working in the Twitch office referred to female streamers as “boob streamers.” These streamers were often shamed and mocked. Some male employees would remark that female streamers were only popular because they showed cleavage. This attitude led to many female streamers’ concerns about not being taken seriously by the company. Some employees were even accused of makeing excuses for sexual harassers and abusers when female streamers reported them.
Meanwhile, company employees confirmed rumors that Twitch favored popular streamers and refused to punish them because they were a good source of revenue, something that has long been rumored but never given such apparent confirmation.
When Game Industry Biz reached out to Twitch for official comment, a spokesperson reiterated that Twitch was taking the claims seriously, and also made a point of saying that at least some of the claims were “years old.”