Sept. 1 saw a day-long strike by some of the most popular streamers on Twitch, and according to numbers released on Thursday morning, it took a deep cut out of the network’s content for the day.
The strike, organized with the hashtag #ADayOffTwitch, asked participants to stay off of Twitch entirely for a full 24 hours, in an attempt to motivate the Amazon-owned network’s management to take more proactive action against abusive actors on the platform.
As of Thursday morning, the protest appears to have had an impact. Seattle-based startup Gamesight analyzed traffic on Twitch over the course of Sept. 1, and when compared to the days immediately beforehand, Twitch’s traffic took a noticeable downward spike.
At noon on Sept. 1, Twitch viewers had watched roughly 500,000 fewer hours of broadcasts than they had the previous day, on 50,000 fewer active channels. While Twitch still comfortably cracked 3 million viewer hours for the day, its overall traffic took a statistically noticeable hit.
There are other factors that could also account for the slowdown, like many school systems starting back up for the year, but there’s enough of a drop between Tuesday and Wednesday that it seems safe to attribute much of it to the protest. According to the independent Twitch tracker SullyGnome, Sept. 1 was the 3rd lowest day this year for Twitch’s viewership.
Twitch itself has yet to speak up on the topic, although it did move the official start of its “Subtember” annual sale to Sept. 2. It’s encouraged affected users of its site to check out its information page on Combating Targeted Attacks, but has yet to publicly move on any of the improvements suggested by the participants in the protest. It tweeted on Aug. 20 that it was “working hard to make Twitch a safe space for creators.”
The primary issue at hand was an activity that’s come to be called “hate raids.” Twitch introduced a new set of tags late in May, such as black, disabled, and transgender, that were intended to help streamers and audiences alike find communities on the platform.
It’s also had the side effect of making it easier for online trolls to find their preferred sorts of targets.
Twitch has a command, /raid, which a streamer can use to send their entire audience at once to another channel. It’s intended as a tool with which streamers can network with other broadcasters, or to give their audience something else to watch at the end of their show.
In a hate raid, the same command is used to suddenly flood a targeted streamer’s live chat with abusive messages, typically targeting broadcasters who are people of color and/or LGBTQA+.
Many of the raiders in question have gone so far as to register dozens or even hundreds of automated “bot” accounts on Twitch, in order to give the targeted streamer as much of a headache as possible. It’s easy for someone to ban a single person in a Twitch channel, but not hundreds at once, many of whom use image embeds or deliberate misspelling to get around automated moderation and content filters.
This can be particularly difficult for full-time Twitch partners and affiliates, who produce livestreamed content for the platform as their day job. A hobbyist or casual user can just close the browser window and do something else, but hate-raiding has been effectively shutting down affected partners’ stream schedules.
One of those partners, horror-focused streamer RekItRaven, eventually organized a hashtag, #TwitchDoBetter, to discuss the issue. As the situation continued to degenerate without significant visible action being taken by Twitch itself, the same hashtag eventually gave rise to the #ADayOffTwitch protest.
High-profile participants in #ADayOffTwitch included Hasan “Hasanabi” Piker of the Young Turks, the Into the Motherlands live-play RPG broadcast, Internet personality Meg Turney, and Penny Arcade’s Acquisitions Incorporated, which ordinarily shows new episodes on Wednesdays.