How much power do users have to influence the ways tech companies govern their platforms? Two platform-shaking initiatives were coordinated by prominent Reddit and Twitch users this week with the aim of improving the safety and security in the spaces where they live and work. At least in the second case it seems they have already achieved results.
Top streamers took to Twitch Wednesday to strike under #ADayOffTwitch in an effort to force the company to stop harassing marginalized streamers. Reddit moderators shut down dozens subreddits to protest Covid misinformation policies. WIRED spoke with organizers who were cautiously optimistic about their efforts to spur positive change.
Raven, a Twitch streamer says that “Maybe” she is a dreamer. I think it’s important to accept the possibility of being able make real change for ourselves.
Raven, who goes by RekItRaven on Twitch, helped lead Wednesday’s #ADayOffTwitch initiative in response to an epidemic of harassment on the platform known as hate raids–a huge, often coordinated bot attack that floods streamers’ text chats with bigoted vitriol. Over the last month, trolls and their bots have regularly entered Raven’s Twitch channel and filled their chat with derogatory language, including messages like “This channel now belongs to the KKK.” Harassers have targeted and published Black streamers’ addresses and personal information, too, leading to reported incidents of doxxing. While hate raids have been a perennial issue on Twitch, the problem has dramatically escalated over the past month.
Last month Raven launched the hashtag #TwitchDoBetter to pressure Twitch to prevent the bot accounts from harassing them. Soon after, Twitch acknowledged the problem, tweeting on August 11 that “we know we need to do more to address these issues.” The company added that they were able to “identify a vulnerability” in its filter system and rolled out an update to more comprehensively identify hate speech. The hate attacks continued.
Raven feels exhausted but knows it’s unfair for them or other streamers to have to choose between their passions and their mental well-being. Hate raids could also impact streaming income for those whose livelihoods are dependent on it. Tanya DePass, a Twitch streamer who goes by CypherOfTyr, has limited her streaming from two to four days a week to just one or two. It is a question she asks: “What job could take 50% of your earnings, and do literally nothing other than protect you? Here are these tools we now see these bot-creators and raiders easily navigate.” (Twitch). href=”https://www.polygon.com/2018/6/25/17502380/monteization-youtube-channel-memberships-patreon-twitch-affiliate-partner#:~:text=Twitch%20currently%20operates%20on%20an,charge%20%244.99%2C%20%249.99%20and%20%2424.99.” rel=”nofollow noopener” target=”_blank”>takes a 50 percent cut of Partnered streamers’ subscription revenue. It is not clear how revenue for donations to the platform will be split.
To raise awareness about the hate-raiding epidemic, #ADayOffTwitch asked streamers not to use the platform. According to TwitchTracker data, there were more streamers streaming Wednesday afternoon than in recent days. Raven claims that their goal has been partially achieved: “People all around the globe are discussing this.” There is a feeling of solidarity. Twitch responded to my request and met with us.”
Twitch spokespeople stated that they support streamers’ rights to “express themselves” and to bring attention to critical issues on the service. . . To make Twitch safer for creators, we are hard at work on improving channel-level ban detection and account improvement.
Reddit users who are unhappy with Reddit policies are getting the answers they need. Moderators from dozens of subreddits with millions of users coordinated a blockade to protest Covid’s admission on Reddit. Reddit was accused of not enforcing misinformation policies by the subreddits they switched to private. Reddit be asked to remove fake information about Covid vaccination and prevention. They were also known to join other subreddits in order to spam other subreddits with lies about Ivermectin, an antiparasite drug, and the effectiveness of vaccines. Reddit states that /r/NoNewNormal was a subreddit which is skeptical about scientifically-proven Covid treatment methods and instigated around 80 brigades within 30 days.
Reddit responded initially to complaints from users by leveraging its position as an advocate for freedom of speech. “Dissent is a part of Reddit and the foundation of democracy,” wrote Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman in a post last week. After days of darkness, Reddit reversed its course on Wednesday. After employees had examined the data, they determined that the subreddits were deliberately spreading disinformation on the platform. This was contrary to the company’s policy of not encouraging physical harm. Reddit quarantined 54 Covid denial subreddits, by adding in more hoops new subscribers must jump through before joining and limiting the spread of its content. For violating the company’s rules regarding harassing or interfering in other communities, /r/NoNewNormal was also removed from its site.
WIRED interviewed several Reddit moderators who felt that their collective actions helped to spur the change. Reddit wouldn’t have taken any action against NoNewNormal or misinformation subreddits without protesting and going dark,” Agent_03 said. He moderates /r/Futurology which boasts 15.6 million members. It went dark last Wednesday.
Although making noise via these platforms may get the job done it is not easy to make a difference. However, the company that operates them hesitates to comment on whether or not collective activism drives change. Twitch and Reddit declined to comment.
These websites are run by Twitch streamers or Reddit moderators, who keep them interesting, useful, and valuable for advertisers. These companies have a combined value of billions. Although the users who create their content are not as able to contact traditional workers in case of problems (e.g. union or HR department), they have joined forces to see what kind of power they can collectively have. TechGuyGuru moderator of /r/Futurology says, “I believe the volunteers that run it and permit Reddit ads to be run without paying mass amounts of people to moderate them are realizing it makes a big difference.”
In recent years platform users have been coordinating more to improve the websites they love. YouTubers tried to unite under YouTubers Union in the past. In Brazil, there was a “Streamers Group,” which last month organized Fairwork project in Brazil, a watchdog group for the platform economy, believes there will be more collective actions by digital laborers, echoing Twitch streamers and Reddit moderators’ activism this week.
They see themselves as more than just ‘creators’ and’streamers. He says that platformization means people are more dependent on platforms and their tools to make it work economically. Platforms aren’t always the best places to work. Platforms often change the affordances or materialities of their users. He says that creators must adapt to these changes, even if it comes at high costs.
It is impossible for outsiders–moderators and streamers–to know how effective their actions were without being a fly on the wall in privileged Zoom calls. However, confidence in their actions may lead to more action. Do you think that our collective actions had anything to do with this? Raveynfyre, moderator of /r/ChildFree says “Yes.” We will never know the exact amount. It won’t be in one million years. This is what PR does.
Revised 9/2/2021 at 12:47 EDT. An earlier version of the story contained /r/NoNewNormal, which was one of 54 subreddits that were quarantined Wednesday. This has been updated to clarify that NoNewNormal had been banned.
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Publited at Thu, 2 Sep 2021 07:12:51 +0000