In light of Alinity's recent controversy, Twitch's account suspension policy is once again at the forefront of many viewers' minds. Inconsistencies and seemingly biased decision-making has led many to distrust Twitch's judgement. Alinity has, in many ways, become a focal point for the perceived hypocrisy on the platform.
Navigating the waters of Twitch drama will likely cause you to swim with a few sharks. Users on Twitter and Reddit who oppose Twitch's moderation decisions on the basis of gender discrimination often undermine their own arguments with the use of misogynistic rhetoric. The inconsistent accountability standards seem to exist not only on gender lines but also throughout the streaming service based on relative success; many examples point to profitable streamers who transgress going unpunished while small streamers are offered the same leniency.
It's a complex issue made more confusing by the lack of communication between Twitch and the community surrounding suspensions. What looks like sexism and favoritism may very well be explicable, but we often never find out. Twitch won't tell us either way, so users are understandably assuming the worst.
The Alinity Situation
The controversy surrounding Alinity serves as a microcosm for the relationship between Twitch moderation and the viewers and streamers who have grown tired of what they consider double standards and inequality in rule enforcement. Popular streamer Alinity scooped up her cat and dropped it behind her chair on stream late last week. The clip circulated quickly on Twitter and Reddit and the prevailing opinion about it is that Alinity's behavior constitutes animal abuse and ought to be punished by Twitch.
Twitch hasn't acted, and according to Alinity, they aren't going to. In fact, on Alinity's Discord server she said that Twitch may instead take action against people who have been harassing her about the clip. Her critics have responded with a Change.org petition to ban Alinity from Twitch, it currently has 22,000 signatures and rising (Update: It has 27,000 and rising). If you read the petition or look at comments on Reddit and Twitter, you'll see that not only do they believe she is guilty of animal abuse, but that Twitch's lack of intervention in this matter is a clear indication of rampant sexism throughout the company.
Youtube provocateur Keemster of the channel DramaAlert created a video on Twitter Sunday the he considers proof that Twitch doesn't treat men and women equally. His is an example is of Alec Ludford, a male streamer who was banned for lifting a fish out of its tank and letting it jump out of his hands. According to Keemster, his offense is equal to Alinity's, but only he was banned, because he is a male.
Streamer Jenna echoed this sentiment in a tweet linking to another video of Alinity that has been dug up from a year ago that shows the streamer kissing her cat after taking a swig of vodka. Jenna wrote "If a man did this to his cat on Twitch, he’d be banned. This is the reality of current day Twitch."
Using Sexism To Call Out Sexism
These critiques are fairly measured and, though problematic, use examples to back up their points. The typical Redditor and Twitter user, on the other hand, tends to resort to sexist rhetoric and hate speech to attack Alinity with, spreading misogyny muddying the issue for all who are involved.
A growing segment of the Twitch community that believes the surge of IRL and female streamers are somehow ruining the sanctity of Twitch, who refer to streamers like Alinity and Amouranth as "thots" and "titty streamers", who call their subscribers "white knights", these are some of the loudest voices when it comes to complaints of inequality on Twitch.
Beliefs about Alinity's supposed immunity on Twitch range from "thirsty" Twitch moderators that don't want to lose favor with the streamer, to theories that she hasn't been banned because she holds incriminating information about Twitch staff that protects her from scrutiny. The outwardly sexist are apparently upset at Twitch for being secretly sexist.
But What Are The Rules
Regardless of the integrity of their critics, Twitch does have problem with treating their streamers consistently. Part of the problem is the simple fact that no two violations are ever the same on the platform, and new kinds of rule breaking are happening every single day. Sometimes Twitch will make a show of force, like the recent mass ban of dangerous drivers, but other times Twitch will not punish someone despite mass reporting and public outcry.
If a man did this to his cat on Twitch, he’d be banned. This is the reality of current day Twitch. https://t.co/TvB1IgkTPl— Jenna (@JennaTwitch) July 20, 2019
Twitch issues bans and suspensions from 1 to 30 days for streamers that violate their TOS or Community Guidelines. The exact language used in their TOS with regards to prohibited behavior says "create, upload, transmit, distribute, or store any content that is inaccurate, unlawful, infringing, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, harassing, threatening, abusive, inflammatory, or otherwise objectionable." While one may find the clip to be possibly unlawful or obscene, or that it depicts abusive or "otherwise objectionable" content, the language is intentionally vague enough to allow Twitch a level of discretion to punish, or not punish, as they see fit.
Twitch has been known to be swayed in the face of negative press, like in the MrDeadMoth situation when Twitch at first reinstated his account before banning him again after viewers expressed their anger with the decision. Alinity has not been punished yet, and whether she eventually will be or not will be an important precedent for Twitch in how they respond to public pressure.
If they ban Alinity because 25,000 people on Change.org want them to, who really makes the rules? Then again, is 25,000 people are unhappy with the way you are conducting business, perhaps it is in their best interest to reconsider. Either way, Twitch would do well to show more consistency with how they handle these situations, whether the streamer is male, female, successful, or just starting out. There are a lot of eyes on the situation right now, and Twitch has an opportunity to change the narrative moving forward.