January 2022 has been another drama-filled month on Twitch.
Two of the platform’s biggest creators, Ninja and Pokimane (a.k.a. Tyler Blevins and Imane Anys), have gotten into a very public disagreement that’s prompted renewed conversations about the culture of misogyny that permeates Amazon’s streaming platform — and the gaming space in general.
Twitch has historically been dominated by men, and this latest incident highlights how the platform can still be a hostile place for women. According to a 2021 data leak of streamer incomes between October 2019 to October 2021, only three of the top 100 creators were women. Pokimane claimed the number 39th spot on that list, making her the highest-earning woman on the platform. That’s made her a target for would-be harassers, and the incident demonstrates that Twitch needs to take these problems seriously if it’s going to be a more welcoming space for all creators.
So why did Ninja threaten to sue Pokimane? Here’s everything you need to know.
The hate raid
As tends to happen on social media, the beef between Ninja and Pokimane stemmed from a previous conflict. On January 12, Pokimane, who has more than 8.9 million subscribers on Twitch, suddenly shut down her stream after receiving a usually high amount of harassment from her chat, in the form of a flood of messages saying: “L + ratio.”
The phrase comes from Twitter, and refers to when a critical comment gets more engagement than the original post. Many of the spammers claimed they were sent to Pokimane’s stream by JiDion.
As this was happening, JiDion simultaneously implored his audience to follow Pokimane in order to raid her stream, while wearing a shirt tastefully emblazoned with the phrase “professional rawdogger.”
Twitch’s raid function allows a streamer to send their audience to another channel. Raids can help creators get noticed, but they have also been used maliciously to swarm and harass other creators in “hate raids.”
JiDion isn’t especially well known on Twitch, but the 21-year-old has over 3.6 million followers on YouTube. (His real name isn’t public, but he calls himself “Demarcus Cousins III” in his videos.) His content primarily consists of outlandish, crude, and confrontational pranks: he’s interrupted Zoom calls, rolled a watermelon in a bowling alley, and asked strangers on the street to marry him.
Clips of JiDion harassing women prior to the incident with Pokimane aren’t hard to find. In a November 2021 video, he pesters a woman at a renaissance fair for her phone number until he is asked to leave. In a December 2021 Instagram live stream, he responds “who cares” to a group of women asking to not be recorded.
After visiting Pokimane’s stream, JiDion watched Ninja play the Amazon MMO New World. He gifted 100 subscribers to Ninja, who responded by asking his viewers to help JiDion get unbanned on Twitch, even though JiDion had not actually been banned at this point.
JiDion gets banned
The following day, January 13, JiDion tweeted that he had received a 14-day ban on Twitch. He continued to agitate Pokimane and her fans, changing his profile picture to one of Pokimane without make-up. She made her Twitter private for a day, so only her followers could read her messages.
During that time, she posted, “it baffles me when other streamers don’t stand up against blatant bullying.”
JiDion tweeted back, “my dislike for her has nothing to do with her gender but her as a person, don’t get the two confused.”
Other streamers shared their thoughts, with 1.7 million follower Twitch streamer Mizkif tweeting “sad how Pokimane still has to deal with misogyny and harassment in 2022.”
JiDion later revealed Twitch had increased his 14-day suspension to an indefinite one, for “harassing another person.”
According to Twitch’s Hateful Conduct Policy, “targeting others with repeated or severe personal attacks” or “inciting viewers to target another person with abuse” can “result in an indefinite suspension on the first offense.”
It appears that’s what happened here, though Pokimane’s prominence in the space likely played a role in bringing this ban about. Had JiDion raided a less-prominent woman’s stream, it’s not clear he would have seen such severe consequences.
JiDion apologized for actions on social media, but Twitch denied his request to overturn the ban.
Ninja wades in
On a January 13 stream, Pokimane brought up Ninja’s “buddy-buddy” interactions with JiDion, accusing JiDion of “trying to evade a ban.”
“Why [Ninja] would help someone evade a ban for harassing me, I genuinely do not know,” Pokimane said on her January 17 stream.
She later shared a Twitter direct message from Jessica Blevins, Tyler’s wife and manager, who wrote that “we are considering everything defamation of character at this point and are getting our legal time involved.”
While Pokimane was streaming and discussing these messages, Ninja also allegedly direct-messaged the streamer, refuting her claims that he tried to pull strings behind the scenes at Twitch and adding “you are making a big mistake.”
It’s unlikely that this incident will prompt a rework of how the raid feature works on Twitch. Instead, JiDion’s ban will likely function as a high-profile deterrent. It remains to be seen whether the ban will result in meaningful changes for smaller streamers who have experienced harassment on the platform.
“Trust and Safety is one of our largest areas of investment, and we are continuously working to make Twitch the most safe and welcoming possible place for all members of our community,” a Twitch spokesperson told Inverse.
“In the past year, we have taken a number of steps to better protect female streamers, including enforcing a stricter Hateful Conduct & Harassment Policy, which separated sexual harassment into its own category.”
JiDion, Pokimane, and Ninja did not respond to Inverse’s request for comment.