Twitch Employees Reportedly Accuse Company of Indifference to Sexual Assault, Racism, Misogyny
Current and former Twitch employees accused the company of indifference to sexual assault, racism, and misogyny throughout its history in a report published Thursday by GamesIndustry.biz. Those employees spoke under the condition of anonymity.
In speaking to 16 employees, with tenures ranging from the company's time as Justin.tv to today, GamesIndustry.biz reported a pervasive and long-running trend of sexism. One woman said the company demonstrated "an explicit tolerance for misogyny," while another described the perception of women at the company as "prey."
That attitude extended to female streamers, whom employees referred to as "boob streamers." The company made explicit efforts internally to stunt the growth of women who dressed in ways it deemed inappropriate — even if that meant as little as wearing a low cut top or breastfeeding.
Meanwhile, Twitch did little to stem the harassment of those same streamers. One early employee said the company blamed the streamers for receiving the harassment.
"There was an attitude in the office, especially among the partnerships team, of 'What do boob streamers expect?'" that employee said.
Inaction and victim-blaming were problems with internal problems, as well. One employee was called a cunt and spit on by a co-worker. When she told her manager, they responded by asking what she'd done to deserve it.
Multiple women interviewed said they'd been sexually assaulted and harassed by coworkers. Incidents included forced kisses, groping, inappropriate messages and verbal abuse. When women reported these things to human resources or to management, they found the response lacking or outright hostile. Former HR employees confirmed the department would side with management.
"They were always in favor of and working for the person with the most power," one former HR employee said.
A Twitch spokesperson issued the following response to GamesIndustry.biz:
“We take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously, whether on our service or within our company and work swiftly to investigate and address them as appropriate. Any suggestions to the contrary misrepresent our culture, leadership, and values. Many of these allegations are years old, and we’ve taken numerous steps to better protect and support our employees and community, and will continue to invest time and resources in this area.”
GamesIndustry.biz's report also indicates Twitch was tolerant of racial slurs and racist attitudes on the site, a negligent position abetted by a lack of racially diverse leadership.
"Historically, the decision-makers have been predominantly white and male, so they have brushed off safety concerns of racial and ethnic minorities, women, and people from other under-represented groups," said one employee."
Workers looking to improve Twitch's diversity efforts or to curtail racism on the platform met with resistance, if not outright punishment, from senior executives, according to two employees. Getting the n-word banned on the platform took years of work.
Twitch's public efforts to atone for its lack of diversity have backfired repeatedly. A video montage of streamers expressing support for Black Lives Matter, posted in July, was taken down after people pointed out the vast majority of streamers appearing in the video were white. A Pride celebration video released that week was edited after the company said "the G in LGBTQIA+ also stands for gamer." This month Twitch removed a series of emote modifiers created to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month that allowed users to add maracas and sombreros to their emotes, saying it had "missed the mark."
Former Twitch executives described the company's leadership as brutal, toxic and exclusive.
"There was a general apathy for sound decision-making," said one former executive. "It tended to be very emotional. It tended to be very clique-y. Who was in whose ear dominated the conversation, whether it was the right decision or not."