Over the past year, streamers on Twitch have had to contend with a rise in “hate raids,” attacks by anonymous users flooding their stream chats with insults and harassment. In particular, the raids targeted women, streamers of color and other marginalized individuals, prompting Twitch to refresh and reinforce its safety and privacy tools and policies earlier this year.
The hate raids have highlighted the unique challenges faced by gaming creators of underrepresented identities — but they are only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the gaming and esports space, female creators and creators of color have long had to navigate viewers’ prejudices and preconceptions.
In the latest edition of the Confessions series, where we exchange anonymity for candor, Digiday reached out to a prominent minority female Twitch streamer and TikTok creator to discuss how she has learned to deal with hate raids through both platform-provided tools and support from her community.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Tell me about your first experience with hate raids on Twitch.
I’ve been raided by other streamers before people were even talking about hate raids, so I thought they were just a normal thing on Twitch — I didn’t know that this was a new thing that was going on. But last night, I was live for two hours, and I got hate raided five times. I got hate raided before I was even in my starting screen before I even started the stream.
There was one hate raid where it was just repeated messages, where it was spamming my chat. So whenever that happens, I try to put it in follower-only or subscriber-only mode. It does get in your psyche a bit because they know it bothers you, so they’re going to keep doing it until you stop streaming — which has happened with a bunch of Twitch streamers. They’ve just completely stopped streaming because of it.
How did your community react?
I tried to keep a mental note — don’t let it bother you, just continue streaming. When I’m streaming, it’s my point to make sure all my viewers are having a good time and enjoying the stream, and I can’t do that if I’m worried about some hate raids. I also have really, really good moderators, some of the best mods I’ve ever had. So they clean up really quick and help take care of it. I’m very lucky in that regard; my mods are absolutely stellar. [Moderators are usually viewers/community members elevated to a position of authority by the streamer.]
Do you use any other tools to fight online harassment?
TikTok and YouTube allow you to put in words that you don’t want to see; I think Twitch does that too. For TikTok, it will automatically not post comments when someone says those keywords. When I first blew up on TikTok, there were a bunch of kids saying, “aren’t you that girl who is begging for $5 on stream?” I just put that — ”$5 aren’t you that girl on stream” — in my keywords. YouTube’s the same way; YouTube will hold certain comments that seem a bit too aggressive, and they will put them in “Held for Review.”
On TikTok and YouTube, if somebody has a lot of symbols in their comments, it’ll automatically get held for review. But on Twitch, when somebody puts a bunch of symbols in to hide a really bad word, that gets through the moderation bot. So [keywords] aren’t as helpful, because they’re just going to spell it in a different way.
Do you have any idea who is behind the hate raids?
From what I’ve seen, I think it’s just a massive bot that they’ve programmed to raid a bunch of streamers because it mass follows you. And it’s crazy because the moment I was on stream and I was talking about [my identity and] it felt like three hate raids hit after that back-to-back — right after I said [anything about my identity]. But I don’t know if that’s it, because it could be anything.
Have you experienced online harassment outside these hate raids?
Whenever I compete in big tournaments — and these are things I’ve experienced firsthand — they do not moderate their chat. Big female players or players who are of color go on camera, and immediately there’s all this hateful rhetoric being said in the live chat. I always wondered — why are you not moderating this? You invite creators to come on your stream and give your event visibility, but then you will allow anything to be said about these creators on stream.
Should platforms be doing more to protect creators from this sort of harassment? Why haven’t they figured it out yet?
Twitch needs to find a way to moderate those events, because ignoring it doesn’t make the situation any better. I really do think they’re trying to come up with a solution, but it’s such a unique situation that hasn’t happened before. I don’t know how they would find a solution to this, other than forcing a bunch of moderators to work across the site, and there are so many people streaming at once that it might be impossible.