Last year, Twitch introduced a Safety Advisory Council in the platform’s attempt to become a more inclusive and safe place to stream for more than just the usual gaming demographic.
While the addition of the council was not necessarily a bad move, the streaming community doubted the authenticity of Twitch’s intentions in establishing the council. During the heat of the #MeToo movement, Twitch had seemed hesitant to take any action against hundreds of accused content creators. The company’s own CEO was called out for mocking victims of abuse and harassment.
During the summer of 2020, it wasn’t only streamers who were getting accused of sexual harassment. In June, Twitch employee Hassan Bokhari was accused of sexual misconduct. The director of strategic partnership had his Twitch account banned soon after. It was later confirmed that he was let go from the company.
Esports insider Rod “Slasher” Breslau commented on the matter, saying that Twitch had told him that the company was taking the accusations “extremely seriously” and was conducting an investigation.
“While it is our policy to keep individual employment information confidential, the investigation has concluded and we have taken action in accordance with the investigators’ findings,” Twitch said.
Several women came forward last year to explain how Hassan had used his position at Twitch to manipulate them into performing sexual favors. Even worse, Hassan had ignored similar allegations made against other male streamers who had asked for nudes from female viewers.
Even though over 200 content creators were accused of similar acts, Hassan’s case stood out. This was a Twitch employee. This was someone from within the company that is home to so many of these content creators. For many in the streaming community, it seemed that Twitch had all but encouraged the behavior of those who had been accused.
Later on, Twitch started to ban more well-known accounts and streamers who admitted to what they had done. This included Smash Bros pro Gonzalo “Zero” Castro and former League of Legends pro Robert “Hashinshin” Brotz, though Hashinshin has since chosen to deny the grooming allegations made against him while streaming on his YouTube channel.
But for many, these moves were too little, too late.
Twitch harassment policy update shines light on concerning behavior
The Hassan situation had started to disappear from people’s minds as 2020 wrapped up. But then Twitch updated its harassment policy. While it first appeared that they were attempting to protect streamers from sexism and harassment, a strange update soon overshadowed all others that were made.
One change stated that people could no longer tell a streamer that their channel is only popular or unbanned due to the giving of “sexual favors.” For many content creators, this seemed more like a policy move meant to protect Twitch employees rather than the streamers themselves. It was hard to look past the fact that Hassan had been fired for using his position at Twitch to convince female streamers of doing sexual favors, and accusing someone of this very act was now disallowed.
Twitch never officially explained why that line was added to their Terms of Service. It’s possible that many female streamers were accused of doing sexual favors for Twitch, and that this rule was meant to stop trolls from using that type of insult. But it’s not surprising the policy update had many streamers thinking about Hassan’s abuse of power at Twitch.
Going into 2021, the streaming community has all eyes on Twitch, waiting to see what they will do to address the ongoing issues that plague its platform. This includes many female streamers getting stalked and harassed, as well as the platform seeming to give leniency towards certain female streamers that Twitch employees most like.