Massive Twitch data leak reveals glaring racial pay gap in streaming

The history of the video game industry can be seen as a decades-long struggle between corporate interests and hackers. Another cavernous gash in the timeline came today as an unidentified source disclosed a torrent link to 125GB of data to 4chan containing so much tea, including streamer comment history, source code, revenue from streamers and data indicating Amazon Game Studios (the company bought Twitch in 2014) is developing a game suite and rival to Steam, codenamed Vapor. A cheeky message attached to the gout: “Jeff Bezos paid $ 970 million for this, we’re giving it away for FREE.”

The leak comes at the height of a growing cultural schism between Twitch’s vast creator base and the platform’s more lucrative interests, creating the feeling that these concerns are mutually exclusive though, according to a number of streamers who have talked to The Daily Beast, they not really have to be.

In August, streamers used the hashtags #TwitchDoBetter and #DoBetterTwitch to inspire platform change around protecting creatives from historically oppressed backgrounds who find themselves the constant targets of “hate raids” – when anonymous users create bots to harass streamers by overwhelming their chat streams. during a live broadcast. “It’s so heartbreaking to see all the stories of marginalized people on the platform being attacked for something beyond their control,” Rek It streamer Raven! who is behind the hashtag said Kotaku at the time. “We shouldn’t be afraid to hit ‘go live’.” These days, however, streamers are less heartbroken and fed up. Last month, a number of streamers participated in boycotts demanding that Twitch do more to protect those most susceptible to hate.

Twitch has attempted to curb hate raids by adding tools and resources to allow creators to exercise more control over their chat rooms. Sources who spoke to the Daily Beast on condition of anonymity said internally the boycott was horrific. The company last week released security tools that would add phone verification chat checks to confirm that accounts in a chat are from real people. While the usefulness and success of their new suite of tools remains to be seen, the biggest lessons Twitch has learned so far relate to transparency. Sources say there was a lack of communication between the platform and the user base, which contributed to growing mistrust. Some users did not know they had access to the security tools that were available to them. The biggest internal frustration, according to sources, was that despite the changes, Twitch lost the trust of a number of users within the community.

What has been unpacked from the leak, particularly the astronomically high payouts for Twitch’s Top 100 Streamers between August 2019 and today, reveals the millions of dollars the app is scattering among a very small subset of users. At the top, as a Twitch KnowSomething user find, accounts like CriticalRole (a Dungeons and Dragons web series which grossed $ 9,626,712.16 at that time), Monitoring personality xQcOW ($ 8,454,427.17) and video blogger Summit1g ($ 5,847,541) have the biggest draws. As much as their content represents a wide range of interests, the common thread between them – and most of the highest paying people on the list – is that they are white males. These numbers don’t take into account donations, sponsorships, or any of the many other sources of income streamers collect. There is also former FaZe Clan Tfue member, who was banned in 2018 for calling a black player a “coon” while live streaming a Fortnite match and made $ 5,295,582 in the past two years. Twitch has not commented on their users’ previous bans or payment details provided to their top earners.

While most of the details have yet to be analyzed, it looks like more disclosures will only increase user anger. Black, brown, gay and non-male creators, who have to spend dozens of hours streaming audiences live in their homes and are usually paid dust, constantly need the funds to make the investment worth it. . With many hate accounts filling their streams, the fact that Twitch distributes most of its money to users who don’t have to deal with this level of hate is not lost on streamers. “Coming after hate raids,” Twitch streamer Briggsycakes told The Daily Beast, “and seeing the highest paid streamers being mostly white and male despite Twitch preaching diversity… it’s boring, it’s frustrating.

“Coming after the hate raids and seeing the highest paid streamers being mostly white and male despite Twitch preaching diversity… it’s boring, it’s frustrating.“

The breach comes less than a week after Twitch announced it would be testing a feature that essentially allows users to pay for increased exposure on the platform. The “Boost This Stream” feature has been tested with around 100 channels, sources say, and is still being worked on behind the scenes. A Twitch spokesperson told The Daily Beast that “there’s a chance this will never fully launch, or it could evolve into something completely different.”

But the announcement was enough to motivate a number of streamers to voice their anger. With influence already disproportionate, users who earn millions of dollars are much more likely to grow their subscriber base, while those with less have less space to promote their work. The idea that the app should reach out to a very small number of wealthy influencers as the masses vie for the smallest audience window betrays a fundamental tenet within the subculture: community play. It doesn’t make much commercial sense either. “Businesses are going to become businesses,” writes Briggsycakes, “and most people don’t care about BLM or their creators unless they’re making money. Not to mention, most businesses are very short-sighted. in their plans, which caused a massive disruption that I think the creators are fed up with. At least I am. Especially since the problem can be solved.

These issues, which are highlighted by the pay gap but also heightened by the sickening hate raids marginalized streamers receive, are causing creators to quit the app. At the very least, last month’s streamers made their feelings known via an international boycott. “It was easy for me back then,” says Briggsycakes, but having recently lost their jobs, they “hesitated to really use Twitch without feeling invisible… they see black people and people of color as commodities and nothing. more. Nothing has changed. “

Rajah Caruth checks his live streamed Twitch stream as he competes in the eTruck Series Night in America Powered by FilterTime, a NASCAR Truck Series race live on the iRacing platform, from his bedroom at his parents’ house on March 19 2020, in Washington DC

Patrick Smith / Getty

As for the top streamers, some of them – like “leftist” streamer Hasan Piker, who was recently criticized for buying a $ 2.7 million house in West Hollywood –to reject the payment leak, because their sub-accounts are easily accessible to anyone watching. It didn’t say much about the actual disparity or the details of the leak, but it may also be a case of the culture of turmoil that underlies streaming communities. Briggsycakes mentions that they “don’t personally care how much money they make; you earned it, spend it. But I cannot ignore the drawbacks that are apparent.

For its part, while Twitch has confirmed the leak, the company has yet to respond to what has been discovered. Asked about the leak and its users’ concerns, a Twitch spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “We are currently investigating the issue and will have more to share as we have additional details. “

These issues of protection, wage disparity and care have been the subject of public discussion for years. In February 2018, after a series of policy changes intended to raise standards of protection, Twitch’s Twitter profile demand to users of “Please watch us closely and hold us accountable.” This first update clarifies our guidelines, but we know we will be judged on how we apply them. If the lingering frustrations of many of its users are any indication, Twitch has not delivered its end of the bargain. And the clock is ticking.


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