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Twitch's advisory council controversy explained

Twitch announced the rollout of a new Safety Advisory Council last week. The goal of this new initiative is to help protect marginalized communities and to help moderate the overall safety and well-being of Twitch's users. There will also be a large emphasis placed on promoting a healthy work-life balance for viewers and streamers alike. 

The council is made up of a diverse group of streamers, content creators, and academics that specialize in these kinds of delicate issues. Overall, it seems like a well-intentioned initiative. Unfortunately, it has become the subject of quite a bit of drama in recent days. To be fair, Twitch feuds are nothing new. Still, things have gotten progressively uglier in the last week.

The biggest issues seem to stem from a recent suggestion that Twitch should consider removing voice chat as a feature. This idea was brought to the table by streamer Steph Loehr, also known as FerociouslySteph. Loehr's reasoning is that voice chat gives different players an unfair advantage. One of the main issues was the fear that some players would be discriminated against simply based on the sound of their voice. 

This is certainly something that has been seen in the past, such as when a Riot Games employee was targeted for sexual harassment when some other gamers realized she was a woman. At the time, this employee (who goes by Greenily) explained that she usually tries to stay silent when playing, because otherwise people won't leave her alone. Riot reaffirmed its commitment to remove toxic players from Valorant after this incident.

As Loehr explained in a recent stream, "The only way to have a level playing field at the highest level of play ... is to not have voice chat, to not have people give out their linguistic profiles. If you are a competitive gamer ... well, competition requires you to get every advantage possible. To become the top .01% in any video game ... you have to squeeze every amount of advantage you can possibly get. Voice chat is unfair. Period."

Shortly thereafter, Loehr received aggressive messages from viewers who wanted her to clarify her position on white male gamers. She explained that she had an issue with people using racist rhetoric on voice chat, notably remarking, "I think a lot of you gamers are white supremacists. Sorry, just a fact."

This stance was immediately met with backlash. According to Dexerto, this stream was followed by some high profile streamers clapping back against the very suggestion. This included notable World of Warcraft streamer Asmongold, who felt that other streamers would have been held more accountable for the things said by Loehr, particularly if they were taking aim at an entire group of people.

According to Loehr, the backlash wasn't limited to merely verbal or written responses. Loehr says that some of the people angered by her comments have attempted to take more hostile action towards her. She claims to have been doxxed by a group that found a lot of her personal information and released it online, including her old high school and birth name. Fortunately, it appears as though these people don't have her home address. Still, this is an example of the very kind of harassment the Safety Advisory Council was created to combat. In other words, it's not a great look on Twitch's part that a member of this team has become the target of so much harassment.

In a series of posts to Twitter, Loehr later clarified many of her comments that had raised the ire of gamers. Loehr attempted to walk back the comments made about white supremacy, but stuck to her guns when it came to her feelings regarding voice chat. She explained that she wasn't trying to take things away from gamers just for the sake of doing so. In addition, she expressed that voice chat tends to give people with toxic opinions and statements more of a platform to harass people. 

Then, Loehr attempted to boil things down as plainly as possible. As she put it, "There are problems with voice chat, let's talk about how to make the playing field more level, i.e. ways to effectively exchange tactical information without your voice ... I'm not coming to steal [voice chat] from you. I was arguing against a impending reckless implementation."

For Twitch's own part, though no specific names were mentioned, the company appears to be taking the matter very seriously. In a recent post to the official Twitch blog, CEO Emmet Shear wrote, "Harassment directed at council members or anyone at or on Twitch only underscores the importance of the council. We do not condone bullying or harassment of any kind and will continue to take action against accounts who engage in that behavior."

In other words, the first week of the Safety Advisory Council has been a mess. For a team that is meant to be helping to reduce drama and negativity among the Twitch community, things appear to be trending in the complete opposite direction. It's clear that there's still quite a bit of toxicity to go around. Hopefully Twitch can help the members of the team to stay safe and protected as they continue to work out new ways to take care of Twitch's faithful fans.