Twitch are looking into several accusations of sexual harassment and assault that have surfaced over the past few days regarding its partners.
The streaming platform will work with law enforcement where necessary.
“We’re thankful for the bravery shown by those who have come forward to speak about their experiences, and we are committed to working to make the streaming community safer for everyone,” Twitch said in a statement.
The full statement is below:
Update (June 24, 2020): Twitch is starting to roll out permanent bans for the most severe cases of sexual abuse and harassment, according to a blog post. They’re also reviewing their Hateful Conduct and Harassment policies, working on enhanced offensive username detection, improving AutoMod and their Banned Words list and conducting other projects to reduce harassment and abuse on the platform. They said that anyone looking to share their experience dealing with abuse or want share addition information after having come forward can report confidentially through the reporting tools on each streamer’s channel page.
Some of the accused streamers, namely iAmSpoon, BlessRNG, WarwitchTV, DreadedCone and Wolv21, have been permanently banned. You can keep up with who’s being banned by following StreamerBans on Twitter.
While Twitch promised to take action, a couple of people have accused CEO Emmett Shear of laughing away reports of abuse in the past.
Starling, a music streamer, said that Shear was asked in an All Hands meeting about partners using their position to abuse women such as Starling herself, and he chuckled and said “wow, the things that go on on our platform, can’t really comment” before moving on.
Regarding Starling’s abuse that was referenced at the metting, she said that she dated a Twitch partner by the name of BrianBBright who “emotionally and psychologically abused me for over a year.” After she terminated the relationship, he brought up her old pornography and called for Twitch to ban her. She said she was afraid for her safety and afraid to go to TwitchCon.
“He KNEW that there was a partner abuse problem at Twitch,” Starling said. “He was given information about partners weaponizing their platforms. He didn’t follow up, he didn’t address it. This is Twitch culture. Sweep the ugly stuff under the rug for profit.”
Pokemon GO player Samantha Wong then said that the company minimized and dismissed the sexual harassment she faced and even let her abuser attend their events and gave him live segments on the official Twitch channel at E3.
Former Vice President of Community and Partnerships Justin Wong then chimed in, saying that he reported Samantha Wong’s situation to the relationship-owning VP, the head of human resources and Shear, and they all assured him that it would be handled. The abuser was in the same VIP space at the same Twitch event the next year. They told Justin Wong that the abuser was the VP’s uncle and an “important initiative launch partner.
Shear released an internal email on his Twitter account, assuring again that Twitch is looking into all the incidents and will be taking action and cooperating with law enforcement. The actions include banning people from the platform, removing partnership status, or removing people from promotional opportunities. He also acknowledged that people using Twitch, particularly women, people in the LGBTQIA community, Black people and other under-represented groups, have not felt safe on the platform.
“I’ve spoken several times on these topics at Twitch, both at length and in passing, and I want to be clear that I do care, deeply, about Twitch being a place where people can create together without fear of harassment, abuse or retaliation,” Shear said. “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.”
Streamers are now calling for a boycott of the platform until Twitch takes action.
A number of the streamers accused were prominent in the Destiny community. In response to this, developer Bungie promised to enforce their code of conduct, which prohibits harassment.
Members of Bungie’s community team also showed a commitment to backing up those affected by sexual misconduct.
You can look at a document of all the accused and the stories people have told about them on Medium here. JessyQuil also has a thread on Twitter collecting the accusations that have been made against streamers. A user on the LivestreamFail Subreddit has also cataloged the people that have had sexual misconduct allegations levied against them.
In other news, a former employee of Mixer, Microsoft’s competing streaming platform, has raised allegations of blatant racism from some of the administrators.
Here are some of the notable partners and streamers accused of sexual misconduct. We will update the article as the stories develop.
Lono “SayNoToRage” is a relatively prominent Twitch partner with over 174,000 followers who specializes in the popular MMORPG/FPS Destiny 2.
On June 19, 2020, Twitch affiliate JewelsVerne recounted a moment where she “played an entire card game with a notable streamer’s hand on my thigh the whole time and was then basically asked for sex oh and it was Lono so there you all go.”
The account sparked other accusations against Lono, with at least five women speaking out against him according to Insider. Actor, singer and Twitch partner Sarah Daniels Barrett told Insider that Lono harassed her at the GuardianCon convention in 2017.
“I kept it to myself because I’ve been physically assaulted many times in the past, and dealing with some creepy comments about my body and my looks or how his wife ‘didn’t want him alone with other women when he was drunk’ or how he ‘gets really sexual when he drinks’ didn’t seem like enough to say something,” Daniels Barrett said to Insider. “News flash, survivors, it is. We can’t keep equating the severity of harassment to how important it is to speak up or how deeply it can affect people. All harassment is harassment.”
She added that Lono made more “forward comments” at another event.
Streamer Mindofsnaps said that several interactions she had with Lono “left me feeling violated and uncomfortable.” One night, Lono stroked her hair without her permission, stared at her, and leaning into her on the bus, and talking about how “liberated sexually” he was.
Mindofsnaps also shared a story on Twitter from an anonymous user:
Cozmo, Bungie’s community manager, said that the developer hasn’t worked with Lono in a long time and “won’t ever again.”
Lono apologized for his actions and even corroborated some of the stories from his victims.
“I am not a victim in this situation,” Lono said. “There is no excuse for my behavior. There is no way to gloss over it and the things that I did were unacceptable. I took something from people, I took memories and events and they are now clouded and darkened by my selfish and reckless behavior. Being inappropriate with these people robbed them of their sense of safety and security and it broke trust, and I am deeply sorry.”
Lono posted an apology video before the one below, as Dexerto reported, but he deleted it because to him it sounded “insincere.”
Tom “ProSyndicate” Casell, who specializes in popular FPS games, has 3 million followers on Twitch and a combined subscriber count of 12 million across both of his YouTube channels.
On June 21, 2020, content creator and voice actor Nati “ZombiUnicorn” Casanova accused Casell of sexual assault. According to her, while working together on a tournament between YouTube gaming influencers in 2016 known as Legends of Gaming, they both were going to have sexual intercourse but Casell didn’t have any condoms. Casanova said that they could only continue the intercourse if he withdraws, since she doesn’t take birth control.
“When the time came, I was on top of him, he was saying that he was about to, and I was like ‘ok I’m getting off,’ and he held me down physically, so that I could not get off of him,” Casanova said. “I smacked him and said ‘no, stop!'”
Casanova also said that despite Cassell claiming that he didn’t have condoms, she later found some in his bathroom.
The next morning, a women who worked for Casell’s company, 3BLACKDOT, took her to a pharmacy to get Plan B.
Casanova said that she tried to maintain a friendship with Casell after the incident “because of his position and power,” but then decided to block him and avoid him “at all costs.”
Casanova also said that Cassel took photos of her naked and showed them to his friends without her consent or knowledge. She only found out about it because he “bragged about ‘showing me off to his mates’ after he did it.”
Cassel’s ex-girlfriend, KaitlinWitcher, also accused Cassel of sexual assault. In a series of tweets, she describes how in December 2012, while the two were in a Los Angeles hotel room, Cassell said he “wanted to do things” with her. She refused multiple times, but then Cassel assaulted her.
Here’s another story from Austen Marie:
Cassel denied the accusations. He’ll make a statement regarding them in the following days.
In 2016, Casell, along with fellow content creator Trevor “TmarTn” Martin, both posted videos of them hitting jackpots in a Counter-Strike: Global Offense skin-gambling website CSGOLoto to encourage their audiences to bet on the site… while failing to mention that they both own CSGOLoto, according to Eurogamer. They also paid other YouTubers between $2,500 and $55,000 to encourage people to gamble on the website, under the condition that they don’t say anything negative about it according to the publication. However, the FTC ruled in 2017 that the pair don’t need to admit culpability, pay any fees or face any other penalties. However, the FTC did require the pair to properly disclose their involvement with CSGOLoto going forward or face fines of $40,654 for each infraction.
On June 21, 2020, Omeed Dariani stepped down as CEO of Online Performers Group (OPG), a company he founded in 2014 which manages streamers on Twitch, after Molly Fender Ayala, community development lead for Overwatch, accused him of sexual harassment.
Ayala met Dariani at Pax Prime 2014, she said in a TwitLonger post.
“I looked up to you and wanted to learn from you anything that I could because I wanted to be like you,” she said.
After hanging out at the convention with other industry professionals, the two walked back together to the hotels for the night. Before they went their separate ways, she asked for one final bit of advice on how to break into the gaming industry.
“Your response was a story about a girl who had quickly gotten ahead by sleeping with some of the men at her company – you remarked that in a male dominated industry, it was really the best way to get ahead,” Ayala said. “That’s just how the industry is. You told me that it was a small industry – very relationship based. You told me that you could help me. You also told me about how people could also be your downfall and that you had personally blacklisted others before… and about women who had been blacklisted in the industry for not ‘doing the right thing.'”
Dariani then asked Ayala to have a threesome with him and his wife. Ayala brushed off the suggestion, but then he asked again. She made an excuse to leave and she avoided him for the rest of the convention. After the incident, she too several months away from streaming to think about if she wanted to be a part of the industry at all.
“You were being manipulative to a young woman who looked up to you,” Ayala said. “You used your position of power and stories about ‘blacklists’ to pressure me into having sex with you.”
After Ayala shared her story, several content creators affiliated with OPG cut ties with the company as a sign of solidarity.
In response, Dariani said that he believes Ayala and he will privately apologize to her. He also apologized to the streaming community and his clients for his behavior. He said that while he doesn’t recall the conversation Ayala talked about, he’s “not going to sit here and argue about whether or not it happened. Because I promised I would believe women.”
“The fact that I don’t remember and she has had to live with this is just more evidence of the privilege I’ve enjoyed as a successful man in this space,” Dariani said. “It’s not an excuse.”
According to Dariani’s Linkedin, before he founded OPG he was the editor in chief of trading card selling website StarCityGames, a content manager/editor for Wizards of the Coast and a senior global brand manager for Sony Online. He was also a Twitch Partner who hosted Office Hours, a talk show on Twitch that discussed the livestreaming business.
In Other News, Administrators at Mixer Have Been Accused of Racism
Milan K. Lee, the senior enterprise solution engineer for Salesforce, shared his story of racism during his time working in business development for Mixer, a competing streaming service.
In 2018, Milan K. Lee, after working at Microsoft for a year, was relocated to Seattle to work for Mixer, a competing streaming service.
He was the only black person working for Mixer during his time there. He was told that he was hired because he is “street smart.”
“I believed I was only hired to meet a diversity goal because I was black,” Lee said. “Anyways I decided to brush it off and let it go.”
A while later, during an internal meeting, Lee’s manager told the team that “I’m in-between a rock and a hard place. What I mean is all the partners are my slaves, I own their content. I control their success on our platform. For me I am the slave master, I own partners.”
Lee met with the manager and explained to her that it was not okay to use that analogy. The manager defended the statement, even going so far as to search on Google if it was okay. Despite Google searches showing her that it was not okay, she told Lee that he needed to work on himself and keep his emotions in check if he wanted to continue being in the industry.
“After this meeting I knew I was leaving,” Lee said.
He reported the incident to a skip level manager, and also included how his ideas were passed by in meetings even when white colleagues had the same ideas. The skip level manager apparently didn’t report the slavery comments to human resources, so it was a complete surprise to them when Lee brought it up with them. He resigned a few weeks later.
Lee then spoke with the legal team to investigate the comments, After months of waiting they contact Lee with the verdict that the manager was not guilty of racism. Their reasoning was that she can’t be racist because she hired a black person.
“This is why you haven’t seen me in any streams,” Lee said. “These four points are the reason I do not and will not support Mixer. Now I have a lot of close friends at Mixer and I don’t want you to think they are all bad. But one of the main people calling the shots has zero respect for any partner not their platform. She believes you all are slaves and she owns your future and content. I stood up to her because I refused to let anyone be classified as such and I hope no partners feel bad I did so. I do not care about how big a company is or their market share. If we do not have the same values, if you cannot be intelligent enough to know racism isn’t tolerated then I will not work for you or your company.”
Mixer released a statement after the story went viral.
Several streamers on Mixer cancelled their streams on the platform until they take action to rectify the situation.
The day after the story went viral, and the same day they responded to Milan’s story, Mixer announced that they’re shutting down operations on the platform and officially partnering with Facebook Gaming, with Mixer’s partners and streamers transitioning to Facebook Gaming if they so choose. Top streamers who entered contracts to stream exclusively on Mixer, including Tyler “ninja” Blevins, Cory “king Gothalion” Michael and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, will be released from their contracts with Microsoft giving them complete freedom on what platform to take their streams, according to The Verge.
The move seems to come from the lack of success the platform has had compared to Twitch, YouTube and even Facebook Gaming.
“We started pretty far behind, in terms of where Mixer’s monthly active viewers were compared to some of the big players out there,” Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of gaming, told The Verge. “I think the Mixer community is really going to benefit from the broad audience that Facebook has through their properties, and the abilities to reach gamers in a very seamless way through the social platform Facebook has.”
Mixer Partners will be granted partner status if they move to Facebook Gaming and streamers using Mixer’s monetization program will be eligible for Facebook Gaming’s monetization program. However, the sudden move has caught many streamers who have built their audience on Mixer off guard.
Employees at Mixer didn’t know that the platform was shutting down, and they learned about it at roughly the same time it was announced to the public, said Mixer Program Manager Tara Voelker Wake. She was told that she still has a job, though she doesn’t know what it is. However, they have not confirmed that all of the Mixer employees will be relocated to other jobs.