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Staff say Twitch has a chronic problem with racism, sexism, and indifference

Staff say Twitch has a chronic problem with racism, sexism, and indifference

October 8, 2020 | By Alissa McAloon

“Nobody ever really took responsibility for anything and there was nobody to go to if you were threatened, or felt threatened, or were harmed in some way.”

- One of several Twitch employees speaking to GamesIndustry argues that reports of inappropriate behavior weren't properly handled during their time at Twitch.

Numerous previous and current Twitch employees say that the livestreaming giant has repeatedly failed both its employees and its community. Those slights, as reported by over a dozen staff members, include allegations of sexism and misconduct that span the entirety of the company’s reign, and indifference to valid issues raised by community members and staff alike.

A recent GamesIndustry report collects the experiences and allegations of 16 past and present Twitch employees from the company’s entire 13 years of operation (including its days as According to the publication, most of the individuals it spoke with could attest to moments of inaction against harassment and abuse and a company that fostered a toxic culture.

Women that have worked at Twitch call the company a “boys’ club” and say that a culture of casual sexism permeated the company in its early days, though complaints of sexism were one of the most common issues raised by those speaking to GamesIndustry.

Those complaints include sexist language used to refer to women in the workplace, sometimes to their faces, and inaction from HR and company leadership when women reported acts of misogyny and harassment experienced at work.

This attitude extends beyond just staff members as well, with some employees chronicling how issues faced by women streamers were often ignored or not taken seriously while decision makers at Twitch routinely categorized women streaming on Twitch as “boob streamers" and dismissed their complaints on that basis.

"With the senior leadership, I found it to be extreme arrogance,” one source tells GamesIndustry. “You said there were allegations of racism or sexism, etc. For me, it was more general apathy, extreme arrogance, and righteousness about their own beliefs that led me to believe this was not a culture that fosters diversity of thinking and styles."

Another employee adds later on that Twitch, after years of indifference, only began to focus on improving its moderation efforts when platform holders like Sony and Microsoft voiced concerns about implementing Twitch support in their consoles due to lax Twitch-wide moderation policies.

Twitch has commented on many of the individual allegations within the full story with statements that range from acknowledgement of changes made since the incidents themselves came to light to a comment arguing that any suggestions that it doesn’t take incidents such as these seriously “misrepresent[s] our culture, leadership, and values.”

That being said, the comments collected here are only a fraction of the experiences about office culture, inappropriate behavior at Twitch-sanctioned parties, cultural insensitivity, and general toxicity chronicled in the GamesIndustry report which can be found in full here.

UPDATE: Twitch has offered another statement expressing disappointment at the alleged behavior of some of its employees, while also suggesting the report doesn't do enough to "acknowledge the ways in which our company has evolved."

Commenting on the report in a statement sent to Gamasutra, a Twitch spokesperson acknowledged the company isn't "without fault or above criticism," but that it has taken steps to cultivate a more positive workplace environment, including investing heavily in HR and making diverse leadership appointments, that better reflects its culture and values.

"It's deeply disappointing to read accounts of toxicity from people who had negative experiences at and on Twitch. Clearly, some of the processes and policies we had in the past did not do enough to make our employees and community members feel safe and valued," reads the statement. 

"While we are not without fault or above criticism, this article does not adequately acknowledge all the ways in which our company has evolved and the numerous steps we’ve taken over the years to build a company that protects and supports our employees and community.

"We’ve invested heavily in our HR and safety teams, brought in new, diverse leadership and will continue to invest time and resources in this area. 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, bringing in third parties to ensure impartiality when needed. Any claims to the contrary simply misrepresent our culture and values."

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