Twitch, a popular video live streaming platform, is a hub for all gamers where they can make connections with their audience and other streamers. Recently, however, streamers faced a ban on one of the most recognizable emotes on the service, the PogChamp, as well as the words “simp,” “incel” and “virgin.” Twitch’s decision to ban both the PogChamp emote and potentially harmful terms should be applauded because it demonstrates the company has taken action to curb some of the service’s toxic behavior. However, the blanket ban of these words and the emote, as well as their insufficient harassment policy, reveal Twitch is more concerned with policing how their community talks rather than targeting harassment at its root.
It is no secret that gaming is a male-dominated field — GlobalWebIndex reported in 2019 that Twitch’s main user base was 65% male and 35% female. The ban on “simp,” “incel” and “virgin” are nowhere near as consequential as other terms demeaning to women, which I will leave to your imagination. Twitch originally stated the ban of these words was part of an overarching ban on targeted comments made towards individuals’ sexual orientations; however, they made no effort to ban other problematic words in this category.
According to Twitch’s previous harassment policy, while the term “virgin” references one’s sexual practice, it is not inherently insulting to call someone a “virgin.” However, many other words, which were not specifically mentioned in the policy, should also be given consideration. It is irresponsible to compare a word like “virgin” to other more harmful terms.
In their updated harassment policy, Twitch mentions some terms that are banned because they “make derogatory statements about another person’s perceived sexual practices or sexual morality.” This statement is too broad; they need to specify how the terms are demeaning and stress the significance of harsh language online. In the policy, they need to clearly address how certain terms are highly misogynistic and try to make Twitch more inclusive of female content creators as well.
I am not saying men cannot face sexual harassment online, because they definitely can. However, the words Twitch has decided to address do not have as much impact as other derogatory terms; by banning them, Twitch is not doing enough to curb the harassment that they clearly know is prevalent in the gaming community.
On the other hand, Twitch took a step in the right direction by also banning the PogChamp emote. Twitch stated that Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez, the original face of the emote, promoted violence regarding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and no longer has a place on their platform.
One could argue that political beliefs should not determine an individual’s online presence; however, what Gutierrez did was not a matter of political opinion but of blatant promotion of violence. Many PogChamp emote users also believed Twitch to be a place of inclusivity and were disappointed to learn about his remarks. A popular content creator on Twitch, Natasha Zinda, tweeted in response to Gutierrez’s tweets saying, “so @Twitch due to this lovely statement … i think this pogchamp emote needs to be removed.”
Gutierrez’s statement was not only in poor taste, but very disappointing considering the emote’s widespread use. However, the speed in which Twitch immediately took control and action to ban the emote is how they should handle harassment more broadly on their platform.
The PogChamp emote was widely used on Twitch during intense or overwhelmingly cool moments during streams. Viewers would flood the chat with the emote to virtually show their excitement. In removing the original PogChamp emote, Twitch effectively removed a part of its identity. Now, instead of Gutierrez’s face, Twitch has implemented a system wherein each day, a different streamer is selected to be the face of the PogChamp emote.
While this system seems like a fantastic compromise on the surface, the lack of action against actual harassment on the platform has seeped into this new system. Already, multiple streamers selected as the daily PogChamp have received targeted harassment. By not addressing the root cause of the problem, which is that Twitch’s community can be a toxic environment, the company ensures that harassment always has a home in gaming.
Tara Kuyilath is a first year political science major. She can be reached at email@example.com.