Twitch is getting closer and closer to the music business.
As well as generally upping its relationship with artists during pandemic quarantine, the platform has recently partnered with Amazon Music and struck global licensing deals with a bunch of indie distributors and labels for their music.
But internally, the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform is dealing with a serious headache, having been accused of operating an alleged culture of “systemic sexism, racism, and abuse”.
The bombshell allegation was reported today (October 8) by respected video games industry publication GamesIndustry.biz, citing one former Twitch employee as stating that “Twitch repeatedly swept accounts of harassment and abuse under the rug: sexual, verbal, physical abuse, and racism. And not just my own.
“It took place in the office. At events. In meetings and behind closed doors. It was rampant and unavoidable”.
The whistleblower shared their account following the publication in June by Twitch CEO Emmett Shear of an internal memo that acknowledged his awareness of allegations “of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault” directed at “Twitch-affiliated individuals”.
Shear published that internal email in response to a wave of abuse allegations against figures in the games industry emerging this summer.
GamesIndustry.biz reports that it interviewed 16 Twitch employees, on the condition of anonymity, “from every era of the company”, and found that most of them “had stories confirming different aspects of the original employee’s allegations”, bar a few who knew “nothing of the sort”.
The games publication states that a common allegation from Twitch employees was that streaming platform “is not a welcoming environment for women”.
“There was a definite bias, a definite sense that females and males were different, and females weren’t given the same opportunities,” stated one woman, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, adding: “They were prey.”
In response to the accusations, a Twitch spokesperson said: “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. Any suggestions to the contrary misrepresent our culture, leadership, and values.
“Many of these allegations are years old, and we’ve taken numerous steps to better protect and support our employees and community, and will continue to invest time and resources in this area.”
Twitch was launched in 2011, and acquired by Amazon in a $970m buyout in August 2014.
You can read Shear’s memo from June in full, below:
Hi team –
As many of you are aware, over the weekend people from across the gaming industry came forward to share their accounts of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault. Some of those accounts named Twitch-affiliated individuals, including Partners, Affiliates, business partners, and others. I want to assure you all that we are looking into all the incidents and will be taking action and cooperating with law enforcement.
Actions may include banning, removing partnership, or removing people from promotional opportunities and activations if we have concerns based on credible accusations and their historical behavior on Twitch. We won’t be able to share details of everything we’re doing out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved but please know that we are taking these accusations very seriously and are working with urgency to address them so that Twitch and the broader streaming and gaming communities are safer for everyone.
We support people coming forward, commend their bravery in doing so, and know there are many others who have not. The gaming industry is not unlike others that have had to reckon with systemic sexism, racism, and abuse that rewards certain people and disadvantages—even harms—others. The status quo needs to change. This reckoning and industry-wide actions are overdue, and this is another issue that we, and the industry, need to address to create lasting and positive change.
One of my aspirations for Twitch has always been to build an experience that is community-centered, safe and positive for all. While this is an industry-wide issue, we acknowledge that many people’s experience of Twitch and people who call our service home – particularly women, those in the LGBTQIA community, Black people, and other under-represented groups—have not been what we aspire to. We can’t singlehandedly solve systemic sexism, racism, and other forms of structural bias and discrimination but we can absolutely set a higher standard for ourselves and those with power and influence on our service.
I know this has been distressing to read and witness. Please make use of the services we have, the Employee Assistance Program, Ginger, and the sessions with [omitted]. There are a few this week on distress tolerance with information and guidance on how to care for yourself as well as your colleagues’ and teams’ stress.
I’ve spoken several times on these topics at Twitch, both at length and in passing, and I want to be clear that I do care, deeply, about Twitch being a place where people can create together without fear of harassment, abuse, or retaliation. If at some point you’ve heard my comments and felt that they were dismissive or that Twitch doesn’t care, I’m sorry that happened and I want you to know that in no way was that my intent. I also know the teams of people who are responsible for assessing and investigating accusations of this nature care deeply and make every possible effort to be thorough and make the right Calls. If you are aware of or have experienced harass mentor abuse please report it to your HRBP.
If you want to do so anonymously you can do that through [omitted] reporting site or call [omitted] from the US. I want Twitch to be the safest place to create on the internet. That is a lofty goal-if there was an off the shelf solution to build a universally safe and healthy community, someone would have done it already. We have created something unique and special for many of the folks who call Twitch home and I believe that with renewed commitment to business not as usual and some bold steps we can make it a safe community for everyone.
A Twitch spokesperson has issued the following statement: “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.
“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.”Music Business Worldwide