The live streaming platform Twitch filed a lawsuit on Thursday 9 September against two users on its own platform for running automated hate and harassment campaigns. Filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, the 19-page suit accuses users ‘CruzzControl’ and ‘CreatineOverdose’ of conducting “hate raids” in August of this year.
The defendants in question deployed bots to flood the streaming channels of black and LGBTQ+ creators with racist and homophobic content, including slurs and graphic depictions of violence. “On Twitch, creators regularly point viewers toward another friendly account after their stream concludes to boost their audiences, a practice known as a ‘raid’,” explains TechCrunch. Hate raids do the exact opposite of that formula, sending swarms of bots to harass streamers who have inadequate tools at their disposal to block the influx of abuse.
Raids were initially introduced by Twitch, along with a tagging tool, after many transgender users requested both in order to make it easier for them to build their communities and discover content that resonates with them on the platform. In May, Twitch added more than 350 new tags to help viewers sort streams by “gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, ability, mental health, and more.”
Accounts spreading abuse now use those same tags to target streamers with racist, sexist, transphobic and homophobic harassment, yet another unfortunate misuse of a tool explicitly designed to give marginalised creators a boost.
These raids most often target black, trans, disabled, and female streamers. Raids sometimes go as far as ‘doxxing’ victims, revealing their phone numbers, names, or even home addresses. “Doxxing is a dangerous phenomenon that has led to people being stalked and subjected to death threats or physical violence. Swatting, an extreme form of doxxing in which harassers call in a fake emergency to have SWAT teams sent to an individual’s home, has resulted in targets being killed,” wrote them. while reporting on the lawsuit.
In the document, Twitch stated that the defendants “continue to promote and engage in hate raids” despite its efforts to ban them from the platform. The site is currently seeking restitution and a permanent injunction against two users. “If they are not stopped, Defendants will continue to harass and disrupt the Twitch community with hate raids,” the platform explained.
The two users are based in the Netherlands and Austria, respectively, and their activity began in August of this year. Twitch alleges that CruzzControl alone has been linked to 3,000 bot accounts involved in hate raids. Twitch has also linked CreatineOverdose directly to the attacks and is accusing the user of spamming channels with messages including “racial slurs, graphic descriptions of violence against minorities, and claims that the hate raiders are the ‘KKK’.”
As of now, the company has been unable to obtain their legal names. While it’s possible that it won’t ever be able to identify the real identities of all of the individuals behind the recent harassment campaigns, this lawsuit could act as a deterrent for other accounts directing waves of abuse on the streaming platform.
“We hope this Complaint will shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks and the tools that they exploit, dissuade them from taking similar behaviors to other services, and help put an end to these vile attacks against members of our community. This Complaint is by no means the only action we’ve taken to address targeted attacks, nor will it be the last,” a Twitch spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Our teams have been working around the clock to update our proactive detection systems, address new behaviors as they emerge, and finalize new proactive, channel-level safety tools that we’ve been developing for months.”
The recent deluge of hate taking place on the live streaming platform led creators to organise the #ADayOffTwitch campaign that called for accountability and equipping streamers with the necessary tools to combat such hate raids. Users were encouraged to not stream or view Twitch at all on 1 September, resulting in the platform’s second-lowest viewership over the past 30 days, as the tech website Creatorhype reported.
On top of resulting in Twitch’s implementation of the two features mentioned above, the campaign also drew attention to the platform’s policies that allow unlimited accounts to be linked to a single email address, a loophole that makes it easy to create and deploy armies of bot accounts. That being said, it remains unclear whether these measures will be enough to keep marginalised creators on the platform in the face of such abuse.