The world’s largest and most profitable streaming platform, Twitch, has been accused of fostering an overwhelmingly toxic culture by a series of anonymous current and former employees.
Founded in 2011 as a spin-off of the IRL streaming platform Justin.tv, Twitch has since blossomed into a global phenomenon and one of Silicon Valley’s biggest success stories. In 2014, the company was bought by Amazon and converted into a subsidiary, but, according to various employees, that did not stop the predominantly white, male environment from remaining toxic toward minorities.
Like much of the world’s industries, higher-level Twitch executives and staff were exposed as complicit in problematic behavior over the past couple years. Among those examples, the most recent is likely the company’s failure to seriously consider reports of stalking from one of the platform’s followers by its streamer, Sweet Anita.
Another example surrounds the company’s Partnership Director Hassan Bokhari, whose account was banned on Twitch for an “unknown reason” following public accusations of sexual misconduct.
#Twitch employee Hasan Bokhari has had his account banned from the site.
Here's everything we know so far ⬇️https://t.co/sUGNlxH5ZH
— Dexerto (@Dexerto) September 2, 2020
In an uncomfortably long exposé composed of interviews with anonymous employees with gamesindustry.biz’s Brendan Sinclair, it has been revealed that incidents like the aforementioned two are not exceptions, but indicative of Twitch’s company culture.
The original whistleblower reached out in an effort to push executives toward fixing the environment they’ve allowed to foster, instead of simply minimizing issues when they reach the surface. As such, they prepared a direct call to action for their former bosses.
“This is about a broken company, toxic culture, and unsafe environment for women and the fact that these men continue to be rewarded and move up within the industry while the women that are targeted continue to be held down. I challenge you to stand by your word and prove to this community that you aren’t just reacting to public pressure through an empty-worded tweet, and show your commitment to stand by creating a safer workplace and community for women.”
Twitch's idea of supporting black lives and highlighting black streamers is to make a video with lots of white people https://t.co/R6oSfue1nX
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) July 9, 2020
But the alleged toxicity is not constrained to misogyny, as it also spans racism, homophobia, and generally problematic hierarchical behavior that allows higher-level executives to be immune to accountability. Of those examples of a tonedeaf, white- and cis-hetero-male-dominated culture, the most publicly prominent is the company’s Black Lives Matter video that was pulled after criticisms that it contained only one Black person amidst a sea of white voices.
Similarly, the social media team suggested that the “G” in “LGBTQIA+” referenced “Gamer.”
But those are just the public stories and, despite some progress, the examples from in-house behavior, offered by anonymous current and former employees, are rampant. Twitch has yet to respond to this series of allegations.