Twitch bans streamers for saying ‘cracker,’ but doesn’t for ableist slurs

Twitch’s policy enforcement is inconsistent at best.

One of Twitch’s top political streamers Hasan Piker, aka Hasanabi, was suspended from the platform last night for calling white people “crackers.” This comes after Piker said what is now jokingly being referred to as the “c-word” a bunch of times over the course of multiple streams in his usual sarcastic tone. Piker frequently champions social justice on his channel and educates viewers about important topics such as Black Lives Matter and universal healthcare.

In response to the ban news, which was revealed around midnight ET last night, Piker said, “Yes. it is for exactly what you think it is. anti white racism for using the term “cracker.””

False equivalency — Unfortunately, Redditors have already had a field day with this one. A shocking portion of the internet is already feigning that they’re deeply offended by the word cracker, with some going as far to make the false claim that “cracker” is a racist term equivalent to slurs used against Black people.

Ableism abounds — Others are highlighting Piker’s ban, which will likely be only three days to a week in duration, as a prime example of Twitch’s inconsistent policy enforcement. Twitch streamer Stephabue argued that the platform “doesn’t care” about most forms of discrimination and “only draw[s] the line when it’s white people getting offended.”

Bad behavior, big stage — An example of Twitch’s inconsistent policy enforcement is with World of Warcraft streamer Asmongold, who has nearly 2.5 million followers on Twitch alone. Asmongold has said the “r-word,” an ableist slur, multiple times on his broadcasts before without consequence. He’s also a vocal proponent of the word — a take which will probably not age well.

“Come on, no r-word? Listen, I think there’s nothing wrong with saying the word [r*******] and I think that the people that get mad about it are fucking stupid... I’m gonna keep saying it until [Twitch] tells me I can’t... if I can’t say it I won’t say it, but until then, I’m gonna keep saying it,” Asmongold said.

Others are reforming — Twitch’s second highest-earning channel belongs to French-Canadian streamer xQc, who has also used the r-word publicly and profusely while streaming without being banned. But unlike Asmongold, xQc recognized the potential damage such words can cause. Last year, an encounter with a disabled fan made xQc realize that the r-word was hurtful and told his community he won’t be saying it anymore.

Unpacking etymology — Unlike the word “cracker,” ableist slurs cause harm against a disadvantaged group and have contributed to a long history of discrimination and condemnation of disabled people. The Global Down Syndrome Foundation explains that the r-word evolved from the words “idiot” and “moron,” which were, historically, widely used (even by the entire medical profession) to describe disabled people.

“Today, these labels are considered politically incorrect, hurtful and dehumanizing,” the Down Syndrome Foundation’s website says. The Special Olympics has also taken a strong stance against the r-word, launching a campaign called Spread the Word to bring an end to its use.

Twitch’s policy — Twitch’s official Community Guidelines state that any “hateful conduct” can result in action being taken against one’s account:

“Hateful conduct is any content or activity that promotes or encourages discrimination, denigration, harassment, or violence based on the following protected characteristics: race, ethnicity, color, caste, national origin, immigration status, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, serious medical condition, and veteran status… Twitch has zero tolerance for hateful conduct, meaning we act on every valid reported instance of hateful conduct. We afford every user equal protections under this policy, regardless of their particular characteristics.”

Twitch’s assertion that it “afford[s] to every user equal protections under this policy” is a debatable claim. According to its policy, Twitch “acts on every valid reported instance” of hateful conduct. But that doesn’t appear to be the case, given that Twitch bans some streamers but not others for homophobic and ableist language.

History of hate — What many new to the livestreaming space might not know is that Twitch’s hate raid endemic, which garnered some media attention this year, has been a problem since 2016: Streamer DistractedElf was hate-raided on Twitch by 4chan users after coming out as transgender. Since then, Twitch has largely ignored the issue of hate raids until the media firestorm this year, eventually deciding it would sue two anonymous individuals.

Twitch’s decision to suspend Hasan Piker feels like the “simp,” “incel” and “virgin” word ban controversy all over again. It’s been a year since, but Twitch has yet to prove it has taken meaningful action against the incel culture that lingers on its platform.