Lesbian gamers on Twitch are feeling defenseless on their platform
LGBTQ players– especially lesbian gamers– are decrying how they’re being treated badly by the streaming platform Twitch.
From being unable to protect BIPOC and LGBTQ users from “hate raids” to a problematic lesbian emote, Twitch keeps dropping the ball for the lesbian and women gamer communities in their platform.
The problems lesbian gamers encounter on Twitch
According to a survey, 59 per cent of women hide their gender when playing games online so as to avoid harassment. This is because 77 percent of them receive gender-specific discrimination when they are gaming.
Likewise, BIPOC and LGBTQ gamers on Twitch have been hit by “hate raids” involving bots that are programmed to spam streamers’ chats with offensive messages.
This became so prevalent that Twitch users ran a campaign called #TwitchDoBetter to push for change. They also set up a digital “protest” where they boycotted their own platform in solidarity with the victims.
Because of this, Twitch filed a lawsuit against two users last month allegedly for being behind the hate raids. The platform also recently introduced chat verification.
When online magazine Input asked Twitch about this, a spokesperson only said: “Harassment and hateful conduct of any kind are unacceptable and strictly prohibited in our Community Guidelines.”
“We take steps to enforce against this type of behavior in all verified cases where it is reported to us,” the spokesperson said.
When identifying becomes a problem for lesbian gamers
When Twitch released more than 350 new “identity tags” to sort streams into categories, lesbian gamers were excited to create streams that were safe spaces for them– but they were also conflicted to use the tags.
This is because lesbian streamers have been hit hard with both sexism and a particular kind of sexualization.
Jess Bolden, a 25-year-old FACEIT Games Esports analyst, told Input Mag: “I would look at the tag for that extra second, to question myself, and I’m usually confident in everything that I do.”
This is because the “lesbian” tag only increased harassment, Bolden said. Other streamers interviewed also experienced the same abuse aimed specifically at lesbians.
It also took some convincing from streamers that Twitch change the lesbian flag emote on its platform in the wake of troubling issues with the creator of the original lesbian flag.
Before Pride month this year, Twitch changed the heart emote from the pink lesbian flag to the new orange or sunset lesbian flag as part of efforts to promote inclusivity.
Twitch needs to do more to protect their gamers
Last December 2020, Twitch tried to address these issues to protect BIPOC, LGBTQ, and women streamers from online abuse on their platform by introducing their Hateful Conduct and Harassment Policy.
However, this immediately hit a snag when one of the words flagged for ‘sexual content’ by Twitch’s automoderators was the word “lesbian.” They also automatically banned the word “sapphic” from the platform before.
In response to this, the spokesperson said, “We’re constantly working to improve upon the safeguards we have in place. We know we have more work to do, and we are deeply committed to this work.”
One streamer said while Twitch does uplift marginalized creators through front-page streams, they aren’t capable of supporting and protecting them from harassment.
The streamer told Pink News, “You can’t say ‘we want you on the platform’ and when we point to the reasons we leave or struggle with growth or how we’re harassed, drop off a shrugging emoji or explain down to us how ‘well, you can just ban or go sub-only’–which has been shown to hamstring growth.”