“Jeff Bezos paid $970 million for this, we’re giving it away for free,” read a cheeky message on 4chan yesterday morning. Attached to the post was a torrent link—containing 125GB worth of tea on the Amazon-owned streaming service Twitch. Among its source code, streamers’ comment history and information on an unreleased Steam rival from Amazon Game Studios (codenamed Vapor), were reports about the income of individual streamers.
While the screenshots, now viral on Twitter, confirm the painstakingly obvious fact that most successful content creators on the platform are men, what’s truly shocking is the disparity, coupled with a racial pay gap. Out of the top 100 streamers, only three of them are women—out of which only one of them is a woman of colour. An analysis of the highest earners, between August 2019 and now, also reveals a common thread running through the list: top streamers are all white men.
According to the screenshots posted by Twitter user @KnowSomething, the top spot is hauled by CriticalRole, a Dungeons and Dragons web series that made around $9.6 million in income. The collective is followed by male Overwatch streamer xQcOW and video blogger summit1g. While these figures do not account for donations, sponsorships or other sources of revenue, female streamers are further down the list—starting with Valorant streamer Pokimane at 39th place, cosplayer Amouranth at 48th, and music streamer Sintica at 71st.
“Excluding streams that are run by multiple people (such as CriticalRole), there are no women in the top third of top-earning Twitch content creators,” noted an investigation by Kotaku. These ranks are particularly surprising, given how male creators on the platform once accused female hot tub meta streamers, dismissively referred to as ‘titty streamers’, for horny-baiting users and stealing their views. “All that energy we spend pissing and crying about how women were ‘making a dangerous precedent’ amidst incels shouting ‘titty streamers’ and they’re not even in the same grouping for payouts,” tweeted Twitch streamer Vanessa Brasfield, aka PleasantlyTwstd. “Find the Black person on here while you’re at it.”
In August 2021, Twitch witnessed an influx of ‘hate raids’—where anonymous users generate bots to harass creators by overwhelming their chat feeds during a livestream—particularly targeted at black and LGBTQ+ streamers. As a response to the #TwitchDoBetter and #ADayOffTwitch campaigns on the platform, Twitch announced a set of verification tools after attempting to sue its way into a permanent solution. While its usefulness and success remain to be seen, the raids had already contributed to a growing mistrust among users on the platform. The recent data breach seems to have dealt the final blow.
“Coming after the hate raids and seeing the most well-paid streamers being mostly white and male despite Twitch preaching diversity… it’s annoying, it’s frustrating,” Twitch streamer Briggsycakes told The Daily Beast. The publication highlighted how black, brown, queer and female creators—who spend hours livestreaming and are usually paid dust—are constantly in need of funds to make the investment worth it. Being the most susceptible to hate on the platform, the very fact that Twitch distributes millions of dollars to a subset of users who don’t have to deal with that level of hate is not lost on streamers.
The Daily Beast additionally noted the presence of a former FaZe Clan member Tfue, who was banned in 2018 for calling a black player a “coon” while livestreaming Fortnite. Ranked among the top 100 list, the streamer has reportedly made $5,295,582 in the last two years.
Considering how many marginalised streamers struggle with discoverability on the platform, Twitch introduced identity-based tags in May 2021. However, it did little to nothing in the quest to solve toxicity against marginalised streamers on the platform. Presently, the breach comes less than a week after Twitch’s announcement of a new feature called ‘Boost This Stream’. Initially tested with 100 channels, the feature would allow users to pay for heightened exposure on the platform. In short, with an already outsized influence, users who make millions of dollars would have the chance to grow their follower base even more—while others have less space to promote their work.
Although there are broader implications of Twitch’s data breach on user privacy, the gender and racial disparity highlighted by the leak is increasingly coaxing creators to jump off the platform. While Twitch has confirmed the leak, the company has yet to answer for what’s been uncovered. “We’re currently investigating the issue and will have more to share as we have additional detail,” a spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
With streamers like BBG Calc admitting that the earnings list “got my figure 100 per cent correct,” while other high-profile creators confirmed the list to be “accurate” and “about right,” it seems that more revelations are in the works as the internet unpacks insights from the leak down to its last drop. But nonetheless, the community will not be the same—until the platform perceives such issues as mutually inclusive ones in the first place.
As Facebook’s failures and conscious negligence of protecting its users from explicit content continue to surface, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) steps up to enforce some stricter rules for certain platforms. In the UK, apps like TikTok and Twitch could soon face large fines and heavy restrictions if they fail to adhere to the government-approved regulatory body’s new rules. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (commonly referred to as AOC) cites that a large issue in monitoring Facebook is its monopoly over itself and all its acquired platforms—arguing for it to be subject to independent system checks like TikTok and Twitch.
The politician wrote on Twitter, “If Facebook’s monopolistic behaviour was checked back when it should’ve been (perhaps around the time it started acquiring competitors like Instagram), the continents of people who depend on WhatsApp and IG for either communication or commerce would be fine right now. Break them up.” She further stated how such a monopoly could have potentially dangerous implications on democracy as we know it.
Ofcom is an authoritative regulatory body, approved by the UK government, that monitors and oversees industries pertaining to telecommunications, broadcasting (both television and radio) and even postal sectors in the country. The organisation’s responsibilities lie in a multitude of areas including: complaints, codes and policies, licensing, competition, research and protecting radio industries from abuse. Now, it has released some new rules for video-sharing platforms (VSPs) operating in the UK.
In a first for Europe, VSPs like Snapchat, Twitch, Vimeo, OnlyFans (which has had its fair share of content moderation controversies) and of course, TikTok are now subject to million-pound fines—or in more serious cases face site-wide suspensions—by Ofcom if they fail to clampdown on hate speech, child sexual abuse material and inappropriate content evident on their platforms. While the broadcasting regulatory’s main priorities is child abuse material, other rules include a crackdown on terrorism-related content and racism.
Ofcom found that a third of VSP users have come across such content on the above listed sites. So, in order to protect such users the organisation, although itself unable to assess individual content, will heavily monitor a platform’s ability to act swiftly and effectively in removing content that violates guidelines. The VSPs will be required to prepare and adequately impose crystal clear guidelines for uploading content, develop an easy-to-use report and complaint process and have vigorous age-verification restrictions on certain content.
It seems such users have had enough of witnessing such content online as the whole of Twitch has been leaked. VGC has reported that an anonymous user has posted a 125 GB torrent link to 4chan believed to contain the comprehensive source code history, reports of creator payouts, Twitch clients and more; the leak (which is publicly available) was reportedly conducted to “foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space” as “their community is a disgusting toxic cesspool.” This is not the first time Twitch has come under fire from its users for its failure to act in moderating abuse, as many boycotted the site over ‘hate raids’ targeted at black and LGBTQ streamers.
If the new rules set out by the UK watchdog are violated or not rigorously maintained, Ofcom will be allowed to exact a penalty of up to 5 per cent of a platform’s turnover or, £250,000. Such rules and punishments will only be applicable to VSPs that have a UK regional headquarters—meaning platforms like Netflix and YouTube are exempt from such moderation from Ofcom and rely on other bodies in their regions of location to conduct such monitoring. YouTube for example, would have to answer to Irish authorities.
Chief Executive of Ofcom Dame Melanie Dawes, stated that “online videos play a huge role in our lives now, particularly for children… But many people see hateful, violent or inappropriate material while using them.” She continued, “The platforms where these videos are shared now have a legal duty to take steps to protect their users. So we’re stepping up our oversight of these tech companies, while also gearing up for the task of tackling a much wider range of online harms in the future.”