Dozens of Twitch streamers have pledged to go dark on Wednesday in protest after widespread allegations of sexual abuse against some of the platform's top personalities.
Over the last few days, numerous allegations have surfaced, mostly from women, saying that they have been sexually harassed, been assaulted, or faced sexism at the hands of powerful streamers. Amid the reckoning, several of the alleged perpetrators have issued apologies or gone dark on social media, and the CEO of Online Performers Group, a talent agency that works with streamers, has resigned.
Frustrated by a lack of action from Twitch itself, some streamers have chosen to suspend their streams for a day as part of a #TwitchBlackout.
Several people suggested this idea, but the first public tweet came from SirKatelyn, a Twitch streamer from Northern California.
"Me and a friend of mine kind of both simultaneously had the idea that what might happen if a lot of us didn’t stream for a day, if we just opted out," Katelyn told BuzzFeed News. "It was the idea to get eyes on how we’re feeling about the platform with now."
Katelyn said she has not faced abuse from other Twitch streamers, but has seen the story after story of abuse as well as racism and sexism on the platform, with little action from the company.
"When someone brings up sexual assault allegations against a partner and Twitch doesn’t do anything to punish that partner, that’s part of the cycle of abuse," she said. "Conversely there are the really good partners who are using their platforms to combat that and that’s something we need to have more of."
Katelyn is an "affiliate" on Twitch, a tier of membership that allows creators to make money and opens up other options on the platform. The step after that is to become a "partner," which opens more opportunities for revenue and greater support from Twitch. Many of the men who have been accused of misconduct are partners, and many of the allegations involve those men using their status as a way to abuse women.
One of the women who came forward is Erin Marie Hall, known as YourStarling on the site. She is also an affiliate and usually streams using Twitch's karaoke platform, Twitch Sings.
She said she was once in an abusive relationship with a fellow streamer who would degrade her with insults, saying she was only good for sex and disclosed her previous sex work to her religious family. She said he also would tell her to kill herself.
"The number of times I fell asleep after having a panic attack on the bathroom floor, alone in the dark, not knowing how I could get out, I can’t even count," she said.
Her alleged abuser told BuzzFeed News that their relationship was "wonderful," that he's not abusive, and "I’m not this monster that she’s making me out to be." He said they broke up amicably.
"Those allegations against me are absolutely not true," he said.
Hall said she managed to get out of the relationship, but as she gained popularity on Twitch, he sent a tweet about her that she says was a bid to incite harassment. She reported this all to Twitch but never got a response.
Her former boyfriend said the tweet was a "knee-jerk" mistake that was deleted within five minutes and that he told Twitch himself that it had been a mistake. He blames Hall for circulating it herself and said Twitch's guidelines about "witch hunts" made it so he could not respond.
"I’m deeply, deeply hurt by all of this. I want it to end. I’m considering going to law enforcement," he said.
Hall said a Twitch employee confirmed her case had been discussed, but ultimately gone nowhere. She also heard that in an all-hands meeting, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear had outright dismissed allegations.
Twitch declined to comment on Hall's specific allegations but pointed to an email Shear sent to staff and shared on Twitter in which he said he does care about harassment allegations.
"If at some point you’ve heard my comments and felt that they were dismissive or that Twitch doesn’t care, I’m sorry that happened and I want you to know that in no way was that my intent," he said in the email.
"I also know the teams of people who are responsible for assessing and investigating accusations of this nature care deeply and make every possible effort to be thorough and make the right calls."
Twitch also released a Twitter statement saying it takes "accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct extremely seriously" and that it is actively looking into accounts of abuse.
Hall said it's bittersweet to see the conversation now happening on Twitter.
"It’s both vindicating and frustrating because I stopped trying to talk about it for a long time specifically because I reported it to Twitch the way I was supposed to," she said.
"Eventually I just stopped because it felt like I was screaming into the void."
Gemma, known as KawaiiFoxita on Twitch, is another driving force behind the call for a blackout.
She said she found Hall's story particularly agitating.
"I knew that I could no longer stream knowing that even their CEO doesn’t care about this. How can I in good conscience keeping funding them?" she said.
Gemma said she plans to carry on the blackout beyond the one-day action.
"I’ll be doing this until we see real change on the platform," she said. "At a minimum, I want to see an action plan presented of how they are going to address this. How they plan to move forward, how they intend to hold those accountable. I want to see bans."
Hall said she is grateful to see people speaking out and taking action and has received private messages from other women who have experienced rape or harassment by Twitch partners with no justice.
"It’s a colossal problem and not one that I necessarily have a solution for short of a major cleaning of house," she said.
"It’s going to be impossible to fix if the people at the time don’t care about creators more than the bottom line."