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Twitch’s secret is out

Twitch’s secret is out

Good morning! This Thursday, Twitch's data dump spells really bad news, quantum computer maker Rigetti wants to go public, and TikTok says the "slap a teacher" meme isn't real.

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The Big Story

Twitch's huge headache

Twitch disclosed a data breach yesterday, and it was far from an average, run-of-the-mill leak. This breach involved hundreds of gigabytes of sensitive company data, including platform source code, internal tooling and future product plans, like an Amazon-owned competitor to Valve's Steam marketplace codenamed "Vapor."

But where we can expect the most fallout is from more than two years' worth of data pertaining to streamer payouts on the platform. Internet sleuths have already begun compiling this data into neat spreadsheets and working to verify it against publicly available info. All signs point to it being legitimate, though with some unexplained discrepancies. Twitch has yet to confirm the data's veracity, but a few streamers told the BBC that the earnings reported for them was "accurate."

Streamer earnings are a sensitive subject. The streaming landscape is quite new compared to the world of traditional celebrity, and much of it depends on a streamer's ability to cultivate a daily friendlike fandom with internet strangers. So it's come as a shock for some to see just how wealthy Twitch personalities are.

  • The leak contains earnings stretching back to at least August 2019. It includes Twitch subscriber revenue after the platform's 50% cut, and ad revenue, although the leak does not contain data on sponsorships, donations, merchandise or other financials that we know of right now.
  • Twitch, like YouTube, has become a burgeoning creator ecosystem that largely advertises itself as a neutral platform where any one streamer can make it big through hard work, long hours and community building.
  • However, Twitch also cuts lucrative deals with streamers, often renegotiating the cut it takes on subscriptions and the amount of money it may pay them upfront to stay on Twitch and not leave for YouTube or Facebook. Having streamer payouts laid bare may impose pressure on Twitch when negotiating such deals and make it potentially more difficult for streamers to cut competing deals.

The thief is on what sounds like a moral crusade. This wasn't just an unprotected database that was easy for all to find. Twitch now says a server configuration change left the data exposed to a malicious third party, which deliberately stole it and then posted it as a link on infamous internet forum 4chan with the intent to "foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space," the anonymous poster wrote.

  • Twitch has become embroiled in a series of controversies over the last few years, ranging from its handling of harassment and music copyright strikes to the amount of support it gives certain big-name streamers over smaller creators. In late August, Twitch members organized a boycott of the platform over so-called "hate raids."
  • The 4chan poster, whose role in the hacking is unclear, referred to Twitch as a "disgusting toxic cesspool" and the leak, labeled "day one," may be the beginning in a series of related data dumps.
  • Despite the grand intentions, the leak exposes streamers to potential financial security and personal safety threats now that part of their net worth has been made public without their consent, as Motherboard reported.

Some streamers are open about how much money they make. Political commentator Hasan Piker, who the data indicates was the 13th highest-paid streamer since 2019, glibly wrote on Twitter, "Can't wait for [people] to be mad at me about my publicly available sub count again," because Piker opts to make this information available to anyone who views his streams. Many others, however, do not, in part because it can complicate one's public image.

  • The leak indicates 81 Twitch streamers have made more than $1 million from the platform in the last two years. Much like YouTube, these streamers can afford to stream for hours every day and can in the process become veritable and wealthy internet celebrities.
  • The streaming ecosystem is imbalanced, with a vast majority of streamers making close to no money and streaming to anywhere from zero to 10 viewers on average. Smaller streamers have often complained about the struggles to attain viewership and exposure on Twitch, given the platform's organization around a small handful of the most popular video games and streamers.
  • Knowing payout information in blunt dollar figures will likely complicate an already-fragile landscape where most of the money flows to the top and breakout successes are pretty rare. Comparing streamers' relative financial health and arguing over who "deserves" more or less money is already rampant on social media.

Twitch is now in the uncomfortable position of trying to investigate this leak and how it happened, combat future breaches down the line and regain the trust of its community all at the same time. It's not clear right now how this data, regardless of its accuracy, will be weaponized and how it might influence the platform's online and offline dynamics. But this information, once a closely guarded company secret, is now out in the open, and there's no turning back.

Update Oct. 7, 10:45AM ET: Added additional information about the breach from Twitch.

— Nick Statt (email | twitter)

A version of this story first appeared on Protocol.com.

Protocol event

ServiceNow is quickly becoming one of enterprise technology's most well-known names. The company started by focusing on helping the IT department manage its workload, but is quickly expanding to other verticals and, on the way, becoming a deeper rival to other software giants like Salesforce.

Protocol's Joe Williams will talk to CEO Bill McDermott to learn what's ahead for the company and how it plans to hit $15 billion in annual revenue on Tuesday at 10 a.m. PT.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

We've invested $13 billion in teams and technology over the last 5 years to enhance safety. It's working: In just the past few months, we took down 1.7 billion fake accounts to stop bad actors from doing harm. But there's more to do. We're working to help you connect safely.

Learn more

People Are Talking

Frances Haugen has talked to European lawmakers, according to her attorney, John Tye:

  • "There's a lot of interest in Europe."

On Protocol: Former Safeway CEO Steven Burd said Elizabeth Holmes appeared very much in charge of Theranos:

  • "She never looked at Sunny to see what he might be thinking. She answered the questions herself."

Jonathan Kanter said he'd keep tabs on a few industries as antitrust chief, including Big Tech:

  • "I've been a strong proponent of vigorous antitrust enforcement in the technology area among others."

TikTok denied that "slap a teacher" is a trend on the platform:

  • "The rumored 'slap a teacher' dare is an insult to educators everywhere. And while this is not a trend on TikTok, if at any point it shows up, content will be removed."
On Protocol | Workplace: The nonprofit tech world is growing, but it's still hard to make inroads in VC, said Classy CEO Chris Himes:
  • "It was like building blocks with moving up the VC food chain... Each time it would move deeper into the heart of Silicon Valley and raise more money, but it took a while."

Making Moves

Rigetti is going public via a SPAC. The quantum computer maker could be valued at $1.5 billion in the deal.

The Justice Department launched a crypto enforcement team. The group will tackle "criminal actors" who use crypto and similar services.

Twitter sold mobile ads company MoPub to AppLovin for $1.05 billion.

CrowdTangle founder Brandon Silverman is leaving Facebook. CrowdTangle was broken up as a standalone team earlier this year.

Antti Alila joined Tuxera as head of its enterprise business unit. Alila had been with Microsoft for over a decade and most recently worked for Azure.

In Other News

  • All this Facebook drama is affecting what it's shipping. The company is slowing down or pausing product launches while employees work on "reputational reviews" of the platform, sources told The Wall Street Journal.
  • IATSE threatened to strike, which could hit streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ if it ends up happening. The union voted in favor of a strike over stalled contract negotiations.
  • Twitter will let you know if a chat is getting heated. The platform is testing a feature that tells users if a conversation could go south before they join in.
  • On Protocol | Workplace: Should your office be a little more like Animal Crossing? That's what Shopify built with Shopify Party — a virtual world with race cars, mini games and nature — and the company seems to love it.
  • Snap is digging deeper into the creator economy. The company is introducing a few programs that let users make money, including one that gives cash prizes to creators who can produce the most engaging video using AR lenses, sounds or topics.
  • AT&T played a huge role in the success of One America News, Reuters reported. Court records show that the far-right network, which still spreads conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the 2020 election, got millions of dollars from AT&T.
  • A lot of Black southerners are without internet access, according to a new study. In fact, Black southerners are almost twice as likely as their white neighbors to lack access to home internet.
  • Apple is reportedly getting an EU antitrust fine. The concerns are thought to deal with the NFC technology that allows tap-and-go payments on iPhones, its terms and conditions, and how Apple doesn't want competitors to access the payment system.
  • Robert Schiffmann died at 86 years old. He was an early supporter of the microwave and helped create new products that grew the technology.

One More Thing

Get 'em coding while they're young

Sometimes the best way to learn is the old-fashioned way, which, for Google engineer Brandon Tory, means putting away the computer and picking up a piece of paper. Tory wrote the book "Little Hackers," which aims to teach kids how to code without a computer.

The book is about a group of characters who use code to solve everyday problems, and readers can practice coding concepts they learn by writing to a little workbook. It's another fun way for kids — and, let's be honest, adults — to learn how to code.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Facebook invested $13B in teams and technology to enhance safety. It's working: We lead the industry in stopping bad actors online. In the past few months, we took down:

  • 1.7B fake accounts
  • 3.8M drugs and firearms sales posts
  • 7.1M terrorism-related posts

Our work to reduce harmful content is never done. We're making our platforms safer.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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