Twitch filed a complaint late last week against two people on its own platform for running automated hate and harassment campaigns.
The harassment, often targeted at black and LGBTQ streamers, manifests as a unique Twitch phenomenon like a “hate raid.” On Twitch, creators routinely direct viewers to another friendly account after their stream ends to increase their audience, a practice known as “raid.” Hateful raids reverse this formula, sending swarms of bots to harass streamers who lack adequate tools to block the influx of abuse.
Hate Raids take advantage of Twitch’s new tagging system, which many transgender users have requested to make it easier to build community and find content that resonates. In May, Twitch added over 350 new tags to help viewers sort feeds by “gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, ability, sanity and more.” Accounts spreading abuse now use these tags to target racist, sexist, transphobic and homophobic harassment of streamers, another unfortunate misuse of a tool explicitly designed to give creators a boost.
In the lawsuit, Twitch described the hackers as “highly motivated” malicious individuals who improvise new ways to circumvent the platform’s terms of service. Twitch named two users, “CruzzControl” and “CreatineOverdose”, in the lawsuit, but the company was unable to obtain their legal names. The users are based in the Netherlands and Austria respectively, and their activity started in August of this year. Twitch alleges that CruzzControl alone has been linked to 3,000 bot accounts involved in hate raids.
While Twitch may not be able to identify the real identities of the individuals behind the recent harassment campaigns, the lawsuit may have a chilling effect on other accounts leading waves of abuse on the streaming platform.
“Although we have identified and banned thousands of accounts in the past few weeks, these players continue to work hard to find creative ways around our improvements and show no intention of stopping,” the lawsuit said. “We hope that this complaint will shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks and the tools they exploit, deter them from engaging in similar behavior with other services, and help put an end to these vile attacks on members of our community. “
“This complaint is by no means the only action we’ve taken to tackle targeted attacks, and it won’t be the last,” a Twitch spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Our teams have worked tirelessly to update our proactive detection systems, address new behaviors as they emerge, and finalize new proactive security tools across the channels we’ve been developing for months.”
Ahead of Twitch’s lawsuit, some Twitch creators organized #ADayOffTwitch to protest the company’s inability to provide solutions to users targeted by hate raids. People attending the protest called on Twitch to take decisive action to protect streamers from hate raids, including letting creators refuse inbound raids and excluding chat attendees with newly created accounts. They also called attention to Twitch’s policies that allow an unlimited number of accounts to be linked to a single email address, a loophole that makes it easy to create and deploy armies of bot accounts.