Twitch CEO Addresses Alleged Abuse Among Twitch Partners

Shear at Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon.
Shear at Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon. / Handout/Getty Images

After dozens of women came forward to describe their alleged abuse at the hands of Twitch streamers, the company's CEO Emmett Shear addressed the topic in an internal email sent Tuesday.

"I want to assure you all that we are looking into all the incidents and will be taking action and cooperating with law enforcement," Shear wrote in the email to employees. "Actions may include banning, removing partnership, or removing people from promotional opportunities and activations if we have concerns based on credible accusations and their historical behavior on Twitch."

Shear commended the bravery of those who came forward to share their stories, potentially putting themselves at risk of retaliation by doing so. He also apologized for any past comments that may have caused Twitch employees and partners to doubt his commitment to making Twitch a safe place for content creators.

Musician and Twitch streamer Erin Marie Hall, known online as YourStarling, accused Shear on Sunday of making such a comment in an all hands meeting that took place a year ago. Shear did not respond specifically to that accusation.

Shear also did not address tweets from former Twitch executive Justin Wong, who claimed the man who sexually harassed his wife Samantha Wong remained unaffected after Justin Wong reported it to Shear himself, among others.

Wong's story echoes many of those shared online over the past week, detailing a widespread culture of alleged gender-based discrimination, harassment, and assault among male Twitch streamers.

In a statement provided to DBLTAP, Hall expressed disappointment with Shear's response.

"I spent a long time debating whether or not to make my tweet, because I don't know Emmett, and maybe he's 'not a bad guy,'" she said.

"But that's the problem — so many abusers get away with unethical behavior and mistreatment of others because they look and act nice superficially or because people in power turn a blind eye to their actions."

"I've had numerous people in my DMs telling me their stories of being raped or abused by other Twitch streamers — in some cases even at TwitchCon — and how reporting it to Twitch did nothing. Imagine trusting your experience, your trauma, with one team, and that team failing you so catastrophically that you 'decided it must not have been that big of a deal' or 'convinced [yourself] eventually that it didn't happen or didn't matter.' They deserved to know that Twitch's priorities are APPEARING to care, but really protecting the bottom line."

Starling said Wong's story about Twitch's failure to act confirmed to her that her own story of abuse being dismissed was part of a larger pattern of negligence in Twitch's executive culture.

"Twitch has a long history of promising action via very earnest-sounding messages in trendy light-text-on-dark-background Twitter posts, but failing to implement any sort of structural or policy-based change," she said.

Starling likened Twitch to Amazon, which owns Twitch, or Facebook — two major tech companies that she said had become too large to fail even as public opinion turned on them, preserving the brand above all else.

Still, Starling expressed hope for the future.

"Ultimately, this is just another in a long, exhausting series of failures on Twitch's part, but I'm hoping that the momentum we have behind our cause will lead to real, actionable change so that people like me won't keep feeling like they're screaming into the void."

UPDATE 6/25/20, 3:43 p.m. ET: Twitch banned several streamers accused of misconduct Wednesday. The company released a statement that same day.