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The Truth About Micaylee's Twitch Explosion

Twitch seemed to have minted another superstar when "Grand Theft Auto" streamer Micaylee's channel suddenly exploded, gaining more than a million followers practically overnight. The intense flurry of activity placed Micaylee on the top of services such as TwitchMetric's "Fastest Growing" charts, even passing popular streamers like Adin Ross. However, the streamer quickly revealed that there was an unfortunate explanation for the sudden surge.

Micaylee's rapid growth in viewership appears to result from the small streamer becoming the target of follow-botting, which Twitch defines as "when a channel is followed by a number of fake accounts." 

The incident began last month, around April 12, when Micaylee tweeted, "Someone botted 1.7 mil followers on my twitch!!!!!" Micaylee also appears to have been the target of more than one attack, as well as scrutiny from Twitch's official review board. On May 7, she once again tweeted, "Woke up to my twitch being unsuspended and 1.7million botted followers... [people] are so weird."

Follow-botting has plagued Twitch viewership statistics for years, affecting both small streamers like Micaylee and some of the biggest names in the game.

Follow-botting undermines growth on small channels such as Micaylee's

While there are many ways in which trolls, streamers, and even dedicated viewers can artificially inflate viewership numbers on Twitch, events on the scale of what occurred to Micaylee's channel are often the result of a devious automated program. As Twitch's guidelines on follow-botting state, "These accounts are usually controlled by a computer or script, and will attempt to look as 'real' as possible while following the target account en masse."

Follow-botting is often accompanied by view-botting, which is carried out by accounts run by similar scripts. These accounts log into streams and provide more in-depth fake engagement, including chat activity. The problem has become so widespread that in April, Twitch announced that it would be suspending more than 7.5 million follow-botting accounts. Those suspensions affected content creators both large and small. For instance, popular streamer xQc lost around 2.5 million followers the next day, which amounted to over 30% of his audience.

The rapid increase in growth and visibility might seem like a good thing for small streamers like Micaylee, but the consequences seem to outweigh the benefits. After all, Micaylee's channel has come under intense scrutiny and was suspended due to bot activity. That said, her Twitch channel is sitting at 1.7 million followers as of right now — although it is unclear as to whether this is the result of her increased exposure or a third follow-botting attack.