Another Streamer Uses Racially-Insensitive Language… or Did They?
The prospect of impunity rears its head once again.
Twitch streamer Amouranth — most-commonly for ASMR and IRL-type streams — was first caught by an esports organizer on Twitter, saying what to most trained ears would sound like the hard R n-word. The tweet mentioning the incident with the accompanying clip attached boasts around a thousand replies with all manners of discussion going around between people who agree with Ghost’s assessment, and others who think it sounds like… grocery store. The words are nothing alike, and yet, the only logical explanation to such a heated disagreement is either assiduous fanfare committed to Amouranth’s innocence, or a renewed case of the “Laurel and Yanny”. Either way, this isn’t a good look for Twitch, which regardless of the affect of what its streamers say, has an imperfect track record of enforcing its rules, with skeptics often chalking it up to “heated gamer moments” when the fault occurs.
This behavior, just as expected, did not quite land well with the black community. Twitch streamer and esports player King Richard said as much when he asked Twitch for an official response. Esports commentator Guy Sensei shared similar sentiments, saying that “[Amouranth] dropped that bomb with so much finesse”. So clearly, those to whom the judgment of what was being said should be most entrusted, clearly do not agree with the assessment it was caused by a lisp, a regional accent, a mishearing, a recording glitch, or some combination of them all.
More puzzling still, is that Amouranth seemed to have a different recollection of what happened on stream, twice. Amouranth first showed a photo of her braces with the caption “Grocery store”, then followed it up with “In Bigger stores”, prompting an even bigger case of “Am I going crazy, or is everyone else around me going nuts?”.
Whatever the word said was, there’s a serious conversation already happening around creators leaving Twitch for Mixer in protest. Twitch’s biggest players are seen as often having preferential treatment, which often means that smaller creators are struggling to get by, as the spoils of algorithmic discovery are distributed unevenly across popularity tiers. If it wasn’t already the fact that major streamers get cut massive checks and sponsorship deals to play games — with Ninja reportedly receiving a whopping $1 million to stream Apex Legends earlier this year — those living on the intersection of obscurity and notoriety are forced to deal with a streaming cadence that has forced some to quit the platform after a serious case of creative burnout. There’s a broad feeling across the Twitch community that the platform doesn’t care to provide them the growth avenues it props for bigger streamers. Amouranth is far from an amateur on Twitch–she boasts well north of a million followers on the service, with thousands of paid subscriptions to boot. If any punishment were to occur, it would largely be symbolic, and not do much to change the status quo within the platform.
What makes matters even weirder, is that Amouranth’s only comment on the issue was that reproaching a conspiratorial tone from onlookers–basically, the notion that there’s a shadowy collective of individuals who are out to take her channel down and just grasping at straws to make something stick. But the record shows, that Twitch streamers have to do a lot to get booted off the platform, and as egregious as terms-of-service infringements could be, the usual PR response from Twitch is just to hand off temporary suspensions until the story loses steam.
Just early June during E3, Dr Disrespect — one of the most prolific streamers on the platform — filmed himself inside a public bathroom within the ESA’s turf. If it already broke all kinds of privacy clauses in Twitch’s terms-of-service, Dr Disrespect’s — potentially willful — disregard for California privacy laws did not help. This got Dr Disrespect banned initially, but after being in solitary confinement for a month, he returned to the beats of mouth-watering donations and a whopping 80,000 concurrent viewers–quadruple what he averaged at around E3, according to Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson. This incident practically solidified a pattern of impunity both a majority streamers and audiences greatly disapprove of.
This is not the first time platform holders have been met with the difficult choice of reprimanding their money-bringers when it comes to inappropriate use of slurs on their platform. PewDiePie was one of the very first to buck the trend, calling another player while playing PUBG a “fucking n**er”. YouTube back then didn’t do much aside from pulling its top-tier advertisement deals with the creator who was later confirmed to use similarly-troubling anti-Semitic imagery just late last year. Still, the damage dealt to his brand hasn’t fazed him much as he inches closer to a 100 million subscribers without frail.
Though, with Twitch’s and YouTube’s spotty record of enforcing their hatespeech guidelines in mind, there’s a troubling intersection of criticism Amouranth is receiving from her dissenters. Some of it is legitimate — and certainly would be inappropriate to rebuke — and pertains to the black community’s objection of the term’s use. The word has a troubling history rooted in slavery, and in an era where police brutality drops African Americans on the slightest of offenses, perpetuating the notion that using the term is acceptable, is quite frankly abhorrent. But however, there’s an intersecting current of those who do not like the concept of a “Thot Streamer” — a pejorative female streamers are often unfairly judged by — and see this potential misinterpreting of a racial slur as pretext to wrongfully kick her out of the platform.
That latter justification is undisguised misogyny. And whatever you may say about Amouranth’s stature as a streamer, her using her body — which she retains full control over — to promote herself isn’t problematic in the slightest. Dare I say, the most problematic aspect of saying a slur, is saying the slur. Any auxiliary issues should not be a consideration in Twitch’s decision-making on this potential community guidelines infringement, but it’ll no doubt greatly color the tone of the discussion on this issue.
It’ll be up to Twitch to evaluate the situation, and judge if it were an innocent mistake, a case of the auditory uncanny valley, or a punishable offense. Still until then, if Twitch chooses to go the punitive route, chances it won’t amount to much. “Grocery store” believers rejoice; your queen is not going anywhere.