Bulletins

After Buffalo shooting, Twitch is under pressure to audit its platform for racism

Color of Change has been pushing Twitch for months to study racism on the platform. It says Buffalo is the last straw.

The Twitch logo on a phone

Twitch needs to do more to prevent racism from spreading through livestreams.

Photo: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Before a white supremacist killed 10 people in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo and livestreamed it on Twitch over the weekend, racial justice advocates had been calling on the company to study the rampant racism that has been so pervasive on the platform.

After Buffalo, those advocates say, Twitch is all out of reasons to refuse.


Color of Change, the nonprofit responsible for pushing Facebook to conduct a racial equity audit, is calling on Twitch to conduct its own audit, citing the Buffalo shooting as evidence of the platform's ongoing failure to prevent racist extremism from fueling real-world violence.

"For months, Color Of Change members have warned Twitch that they have not taken their obligations to Black people seriously enough," the group said in a new petition. "Twitch needs to answer for its role as the entry point in an internet ecosystem of harm."

Of the 10 people who were killed and three who were wounded in the shooting, 11 were Black, according to local news. A document allegedly written by the shooter suggests he was motivated by racist conspiracy theories and was inspired to livestream his rampage by the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, which were also livestreamed.

But the Buffalo shooting is hardly the first sign of the hate and racist rhetoric that exist on Twitch. Last year, Twitch streamers sounded the alarm about so-called "hate raids" they experienced on the platform. Twitch responded by fixing what it described as "a vulnerability in our proactive filters." The company also rolled out a new policy related to hateful conduct and went so far as to sue anonymous hate raiders in order to identify them and assist in law enforcement efforts to stop them. The company also removed over 15 million bot accounts and has rolled out new tools to curb hate raids.

Color of Change has been pushing Twitch all the while to conduct a public audit of these and other issues, but the company has yet to take the group up on it.

A Twitch spokesperson told Protocol that the company is grateful for Color of Change's input, but given Twitch's global scale, it has opted not to work with the organization on an audit. It is, however, working with another third-party organization on a different kind of audit that will look at the experience of marginalized communities on Twitch globally. The details of that audit have not been previously reported, and Twitch's spokesperson declined to name the organization the company is working with. But the spokesperson said the results will be published by that third party some time this year.

It's unclear whether that audit will address the issues that Color of Change is focused on pertaining to the risks to Black people in the U.S. "A publicly accountable racial equity audit is necessary to ensure Twitch lives up to its commitment to Black creators and Black communities," Color of Change wrote in its petition.

Facebook published its own civil rights audit in the summer of 2020, after a similar pressure campaign by Color of Change. Since then, shareholders have mounted efforts to pressure tech giants like Apple to undertake similar public audits. These audits alone won't fix the problems both societal and technological that motivated the Buffalo shooting and enabled it to be broadcast far and wide. But at Facebook, at least, the audit and the issues it raised did lead to some modest changes within the company, including the creation of a new vice president of civil rights position.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the number of bot accounts Twitch has removed. This story was updated May 16, 2022.

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