Between September 30 and October 2, TwitchCon 2016 took place, including a panel about diversity called Diversify Twitch. Meant to address racism and the representation of people of colour, many were looking forward to a productive discussion.
Unfortunately, while the panel itself was a success, the response to the panel in Twitch chat was disappointing. Diversify Twitch’s panelists, who are all black, were bombarded with waves of racist abuse.
TwitchCon Diversity Panel Faces Racist Abuse
Polygon reports that in addition to insults and arguments such as “you should have thicker skin if you want to stream,” the TriHard emote (which is based on black speedrurner trihex) also popped up frequently.
While panelist DeeJay Knight explains that he often blocks the TriHard emote in an effort to tackle this racist abuse, fellow panelist Chinny notes that “the trihex emote was not made to be a racist emote..but people on the internet will find any way to make things racist.” Chinny also suggests that “Twitch could look into these emotes to make them a little more diverse so trolls will have a harder time doing this.”
Another panelist, professional Hearthstone player Terrence Miller who made headlines for the racist abuse he faced on Twitch, also has some suggestions. Speaking to Kotaku, Miller notes things like IP banning, better moderation tools and whitelisting (banning users in chat without them knowing) could help.
Additionally, moderator and streamer Ryoga Vee calls for a more diverse TwitchCon 2017 guest list, for Twitch to release a diversity report and for the company to hire more people of colour. Responding to the suggestions, Twitch explains that “the majority of featured guests were based on their popularity as dictated by how many followers, subscribers and concurrent viewers their channels have.”
Twitch also adds that:
“We would love to help grow the number of POC among that top bracket, which is why we featured a panel on diversity and introduced Inclusivity City, a special zone at TwitchCon 2016 designed to give attendees a chance to connect with organizations that are helping to make Twitch a welcoming place for everyone.”
Although Miller says that “I don’t expect answers [to Twitch chat’s racism problem] to come in a couple of months or right away,” it’s at least positive that Twitch is working to address the issues. DeejayKnight confirms that he has spoken to Twitch about improving the moderation tools.
It’s also worth noting that earlier this year, Twitch teamed up with Blizzard to tackle racist abuse, a move which followed Miller’s racist harassment ordeal. The fruits of their labour have yet to be fully realised but as the chat for Diversify Twitch made clear, Twitch’s racism problem isn’t going away any time soon and the sooner methods to combat that hatred improve, the better.