Melissa Harris-Perry: You're listening to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry.
Speaker 1: Ahh, oh now for the 15-minute opening cutscene, I forgot how awesome Donkey Kong 64 is.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Twitch, it's a platform that's home to millions of users who live stream on their own channels and interact in real-time with viewers. It's a great way to connect, but which is also host to some very real problems. Recently, a number of Black content creators on the platform begin speaking out against the hate raids that they've experienced.
Now a hate raid is when a creator's chat is flooded with racist, hateful language targeting them because they belong to a marginalized group and the situation has gotten so bad that several Black Twitch content creators have decided enough is enough. They started a hashtag, #TwitchDoBetter and they've also organized a protest set for Wednesday. They're calling it a day off Twitch. For more on the Twitch boycott, I turned to--
Raven: Raven, I am a content creator and activist on Twitch.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Raven or Rek It Raven told The Takeaway about the hate she's experienced on Twitch and how the campaign of #TwitchDoBetter has taken off.
Raven: Hate on the platform is not new. That has always been there, but they used to be classified as trolls. Trolls are somebody who just come in, say something out the side of their neck if you will, and get banned and that's the end of it. That's always been a thing, but over the course of the last four years, since racism became acceptable, people have gotten really brazen.
I've had people come in with bots, basically. It's usually one or two people who program a bunch of bots, you bypass security measures that are put in place and just spam a broadcaster's chat with very inflammatory, derogatory language. hat has been on the uptick. I happen to be a Black person that likes alternative clothing, and music. The first thing that I saw at the very beginning of this was a bunch of bot accounts coming into my chat and saying, "Hey, is a Black goth a gigger?"
Melissa Harris-Perry: Wait, they call her what, and there's plenty of other racist rhetoric she's heard. That's a lot to have to deal with when you're on a platform just trying to have a little fun.
Raven: I was taken aback because it was very, very, very pointed. Somebody had sought me out to attack my identity in multiple facets in a single message. I had basically taken a clip of that, which is about 30 seconds to a minute, and I shared it on Twitter and that gained a little bit of traction. A week later, same thing happened, except now they were saying things like, "This channel is being taken over by the KKK."
Melissa Harris-Perry: This seems like a pervasive problem. Raven told us more about how she's tried pressing forward.
Raven: Again, I clipped that, and I sent that out into the Twitterverse, if you will, and that took off even more. Then the day after, I saw somebody else post a screenshot of the same racist rhetoric in their channel and I was done. I had enough. We should not be having to deal with that in a space that is supposed to be diverse and inclusive and so I had "tweeted" that particular person, and it was like "Twitch, this is enough. We should not be doing this." I put in the #TwitchDoBetter, and I pushed it, and it took off. I could not have expected it to take off as much as it has.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Fortunately, Twitch did not completely ignore Raven and her fellow activists.
Raven: Twitch has responded to me. We actually had a meeting about it and there's a lot of stuff that I cannot disclose at this time, but I will say the team that I met with does care, and I am grateful for that, but it's not going to stop me from being proactive in trying to achieve this change. One conversation with Twitch is not enough. A day off Twitch is still going to continue.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Listen, I know that's right. My dad always says, "The struggle continues." What Raven told us is that although Twitch responded to her, they also took their time.
Raven: When TwitchDoBetter started taking off, it took them a couple of days to actually put out a tweet that was not received well by many people, because, unfortunately, there is a lot of trust that has been eroded over time due to their lack of communication, or due to them saying one thing and not providing it in action. When I did speak with them, what I can say is that they are planning on fixing things, and they are working as quickly as they can.
A lot of it is not wanting the people who are responsible for this to have a key to a lock that's not even ready because these people who are doing these things are smarter than a lot of people are giving them credit for.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, that makes sense. However, Twitch is choosing to address this problem, it's understandable to keep it under wraps. It's not only Black content creators who have been subjected to hate raids and harmful rhetoric.
Raven: I know there's a couple of 1000 people who are partaking in this event. I know a lot of them are marginalized people being Black, or Latinx, or Asian or what have you and a lot of them are part of the LGBTQIA2+ community. A lot of transgender people are taking off because they have been targeted just as bad.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Raven and her fellow activists intend to push on, even in the face of some pushback from other content creators on the platform.
Raven: There has been a lot of pushback from some bigger creators and there are other creators who are asking questions like, "Well, why is this going to work?" These are valid opinions to have but I think, unfortunately, the momentum of the movement did get squandered a little bit. We're still going to push forward and I will say, we know that a single day off Twitch isn't going to fix everything. We don't expect that.
I think there's a lot of little subtleties and nuances that people are overlooking. Mainly, the solidarity behind the movement, I think is major, the fact that it has gained traction. The fact that there are worldwide news outlets and media outlets who have picked up and reported on this story. Don't count us out.
Melissa Harris-Perry: We asked Raven for one piece of advice she wants to give to other younger content creators who may be scared because of the recent hate raids and harmful rhetoric on Twitch.
Raven: I think the biggest thing is nobody can take away who you are no matter how hard they try. I think that a lot of where this is coming from is jealousy and anger, and that's on them, but you can have a community that is supporting and loving and will lift you up just as you lift others up. I think if you are afraid, you're allowed to be but don't let fear control you because you know who you are and that at the end of the day is going to be the most important thing.
Melissa Harris-Perry: My thanks to Raven for joining us and her work around protecting marginalized folks online. Now we reached out to Twitch for the story, and they did send us a comment saying they are "working hard on improved channel level ban evasion detection and additional account improvements to help make Twitch a safer place for creators." You can find their full response online at thetakeaway.org.
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