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Streamer CriticalBard talks about the temporary face of PogChamp

Last week, Twitch erased the face of his extremely popular PogChamp emotee, Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez, after he called for further violence at the Capitol just after a mob fired the building. In the wake of this, Twitch responded to a suggestion from the community for the emo – why not have a different face that represents the hype on Twitch every day?

So did the company. Three days after the start of the experiment, Omega “CriticalBard” Jones, a partner, started streaming black music. Critical role, took his turn as the face of the global emote. The racist harassment came almost immediately.

“In the beginning, it was nice. I was nervous. I want to say in advance that I prepared my mods on Twitch, ”says Jones. “And they were like, ‘Well, the person who’s a PogChamp today seems to be doing well. So I think you’m fine. ‘I said’ Ha, but I’m black. ‘ “Jones started receiving comments on Twitter from people who said he did not look like PogChamp, that Twitch should bring the old emote back instead, and then” a nasty ton of people, you know, say racist things. “After he went live on Twitch, however, the problem really began.

Jones played Overwatch with friends – “does not play well, why I do not compete,” he says – when Twitch users stormed his chat and said he did not deserve to be PogChamp. “But it came to the point that black lives mean nothing and other things,” Jones says. “And then someone mentioned white life, no matter what. And I said ‘No, white life does not matter because a white life is nothing.’ “Someone cut it.

The clip went viral in places like the Twitch drama subreddit / r / LivestreamFail and across live stream-watching internet. However, it was pulled out of context. “I said you can be proud of being Italian, you can be proud of being Scottish – because those are nationalities,” Jones said, repeating what he said in the full version of the clip. “It’s your legacy.” He continued:

You can not be proud of being white. Because whiteness is a concept that was only created because black became a thing. And the only reason blackness is one thing is because we as black people were taken away from Africa without our consent, enslaved and left to dust. Our literal heritage and identity was taken from us. All we have to hold on to in America – mostly black people – is our blackness. So there is a black culture that is not a white culture. There was never a white culture.

It’s an elegant way to put a rather complicated concept that people all over the internet seem to intend to misunderstand. To discuss race in America is to discuss power dynamics and history, which is something that is hard to understand if it is necessary that you do not understand it. Jones says he tried to explain it to people. “But you know racists have to be racist,” he said.

Jones says he would be the face of PogChamps because it would mean a lot to other people who want to see marginalized people on Twitch. “I can handle a little bit of bull if it means someone else gets to see something that is, you know, them. Their color. Or someone they can identify with, ”he says. He was also interested in the idea of ​​a community-based rotating emote. “The funny thing is that people do not even care about PogChamp as a person. They are just interested in preserving what they consider to be tradition, ”says Jones. “But if PogChamp is about that excitement, it should not matter who the face is.”

Jones’ harassment points to a major problem on Twitch: the site does not appear to know how to protect its creators from marginalized backgrounds from the toxic elements of society. Jones told me that the Twitch representative who initially reached out to him about being the face of PogChamp said that the company planned to give future PogChamp faces further moderation support in their channels. But Jones says that is not enough. “What annoys me about it is instead of doing what you can do, which is to ban these people from your platform – if we want to get into that, you have to start banning IP addresses,” he says Jones.

Moreover, Jones says it’s not as if the Black Twitch community has not previously spoken to the company about the issue. “Like it was not just yesterday where someone said, ‘Twitch, you have to fix it.’ Racism has been very wild on Twitch for a long time. And they have not done anything about it yet, ”says Jones. “So that makes us go out like ‘Okay, so what’s the point?'”

Twitch obliquely referred to Jones’ harassment in a Twitter thread yesterday, where the company wrote that it believes in celebrating diversity. A spokesman for Twitch sent me the following statement when I asked for more details:

Highlighting a new PogChamp every day was an idea that came directly from our community and was created in the spirit to celebrate the diversity of creators on Twitch. While we have seen an overwhelmingly positive response from both the community and the featured, we are also in close contact with PogChamp’s new faces to offer support as needed. We do not tolerate harassment on Twitch and will act on any conduct in our service that violates our rules.

But in Jones’ view, that is not enough. “They did not even say ‘we were sad.’ They said we are working to make this place more diverse and all this, ”he says. “They did not condemn anything. They need to start condemning these things, ”Jones continues. “They have to start saying, ‘This is not what we want as a platform. That’s not what we’re promoting as a platform. And people will start to see the consequences of their actions. Start seeing the consequences of the things they do. ‘”

Jones also took the opportunity to clarify that it was not just random Twitch users who came to his stream to harass him. He says it was directed by some subsidiaries and Twitch partners. “If Twitch is a company that says ‘We do not agree with it’, then you have to show that you do not agree with it. AKA, terminate their accounts and release them with partner badges. Get rid of this associated status. Because I’m pretty sure that in partner and affiliate rules and all that, you can not really be, you know, hate speech and all that. But I think when Twitch makes money, is that okay? ”

Harassment, however, has not phased Jones. Some members of society supported his defense, such as Hasan “hasanabi” Piker, a prominent political streamer who defended Jones in his own stream. “I loved watching the clip of Hasan,” Jones says. “One of the best things that can just give you all the light, the nutrients that your life needs, is to see these people look up to someone and expect them to like being on their side, and that is they do not. ”

He also told me that he saw a large influx of new subscribers – “But I do not want to be like, ‘Thank you for being racist,'” Jones jokes – and that he’s still here. “Black people have had to go through this world on high alert since we were almost born,” he says. “So there is literally nothing they can do. I was doxxed. I received death threats. You can say all that behind your keyboard that you can hardly afford, with your two viewers. You can say all that, but understand that you are only giving me fuel. ”

February is Black History Month, and Jones tells me that Twitch has already begun reaching out to prominent black creators about activations. It’s an open question whether Twitch’s overhauled policy of Hateful Conduct – announced in December and coming into force later this month – will have an impact on the number of people swarming marginalized creators when Twitch gives them the spotlight . As with everything else, the devil is in enforcement. Will Twitch protect its marginalized creators?

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