Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman, a podcaster that fought to overturn the 2020 presidential election, recently opposed masking missions to her 4,000 fans during a live broadcast and encouragement they go into stores without masks. On another day, she became emotional when she thanked them for sending her $ 84,000.
Millie Weaver, a former reporter of conspiracy theories website Infowars, speculated on her channel that the coronavirus vaccine could be used to survey people. She then opened her merchandise store, where she sold $ 30 “Drain the Swamp” T-shirts and hats to promote the conspiracies.
And a podcaster player of Zak Paine or Redpill78, who pushes the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, has urged his viewers to donate to an Ohio man’s parliamentary campaign, who has said he was attend the “Prevent Theft” rally in Washington on January 6.
All three spread their messages on Twitch, an Amazon-owned video-streaming site, that has become the new mainstream base of operations for many of the most powerful influencers. Celebrities like them turned to the site after Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms blocked false information and hate speech ahead of the 2020 election.
Twitch comes with a bonus: This service makes it easy for live streamers to make money, providing a source of finance as their access to the largest online platforms has shrunk. Websites are one of those streets, along with apps like Google Podcasts, where far-right influencers have spread as their options to spread lies have diminished.
Twitch has become a multi-billion dollar business thanks to video gamers broadcasting their games like Fortnite and Call of Duty. Fans, many of whom are young men, pay gamers by subscribing to their channel or donating money. Celebrities make even more money by sending their fans to external websites to buy merchandise or donate money.
Now, Twitch has also become a place where right-wing figures spread theories of election conspiracy and vaccines, often without playing any video games. It’s part of a shift at the platform, where live streamers have branched out from games to topics about fitness, cooking, fishing, and other lifestyles in recent years.
But unlike sideline live streaming sites like Dlive and Trovo, which also offer a monetization opportunity for far-right individuals, Twitch attracts a much larger audience. On average, 30 million people visit the website every day, the platform said.
Megan Squire, a professor of computer science at Elon University who spies on cyber extremists, said Twitch “makes money from propaganda, which is unique. She said it appears that the listeners of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who passed away in February, are donating in real time and making larger amounts whenever Mr. Limbaugh shares his The idea is more controversial.
“You can spin up and down and move money up and down by saying certain things in your flow,” said Ms. Squire.
At least 20 channels related to far-right movements have begun airing on Twitch since the fall, according to data compiled by Genevieve Oh, a live streaming analyst. Some have to do with QAnon, the false hypothesis that former President Donald J. Trump is fighting a group of Democratic pedophiles.
Channels range from intermittent stations with hundreds of views to live stations almost every day, and attract thousands of viewers.
In a statement, Sara Clemens, CEO of Twitch, said QAnon users are only a “handful” of the seven million people who stream on the site each month.
“We will take action against users who violate our community policy for harmful content that encourages or incites self-destruction, harassment or attempts or threats to do so. physically harm others, including false information, ”she said.
Twitch viewers support streamers through a $ 5, $ 10, or $ 25 monthly subscription to their channel or by donating “bits,” a Twitch currency that can be converted to money. real. Site also runs ads in streams. Platforms and streamers divide the revenue from ads and subscriptions.
It is difficult to determine how much individual streamers make from their Twitch channels, but some far-right individuals have already made thousands of dollars.
By looking at the chat logs of streams showing when new users signed up, Ms. Oh has collected at least $ 26,000 in sign-ups for Ms. Maras-Lindeman since December and around $ 5,000 in donations “ bit ”before Twitch cuts it.
Ms. Weaver has made almost $ 3,000 since she began streaming regularly on Twitch in March, according to Ms. Oh’s figures, and Mr. Paine has made at least $ 5,000. Those numbers don’t take into account money earned in other ways, such as through Square’s Cash App or Ms.’s online merchandise store. Weaver.
Twitch often has stricter rules than other social media platforms about the types of opinions users can express. It temporarily suspended Mr. Trump’s account for “hateful behavior” last summer, months before Facebook and Twitter made similar moves. Its community principles prohibit hateful behaviors and behaviors. Twitch is developing a false information policy, Ms. Clemens said.
This month, Twitch announced a policy that allows them to suspend the accounts of serious real-life offenders or offenders or on other social media platforms, including violent extremism or members of a known hostile group. Twitch said they don’t see QAnon as an obnoxious group.
Regardless, a Twitch channel by Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a white nationalist organization, remained online until the middle of this month after The New York Times asked about it. And white nationalist Anthime Joseph Gionet, known as Baked Alaska, has had the Twitch channel for months, even though he was arrested by the FBI in January and charged with illegally hacking. entered the US Capitol on Jan. 6. Twitch initially stated that his operations had not violated platform policies, then banned him this month for hostile behavior.
Ms. Maras-Lindeman and Mr. Paine are Twitch Partners, a well-loved state that offers improved customer support and more options for customizing streams. Twitch checks these channels to approve what they do. The company’s website says the partners should “serve as role models for the community.”
Ms. Maras-Lindeman, who was banned from Twitter, averaged around 3,000 people watching a broadcast in March, and her live video quickly became one of the 1,200 most popular channels across the entire Twitch . Her streams often resemble extended monologues about current events.
Sometimes the “O” in her username “ToreSays” is replaced with a fiery “Q” and she uses the slogan “Where we go, we go all”, both expressions statue of the QAnon movement. She encouraged her viewers to find legitimate avenues for removing Ohio lawmakers from office because, she said, they were elected using illegal voting machines.
“You want a great reset? Here is it. We’ll do it our way, and that’s by getting rid of you, ”she said during a January live broadcast.
In addition to her earnings on Twitch, Maras-Lindeman fans have donated more than $ 84,000 for her birthday through the GoFundMe campaign. She said the donations went to a new car, medical treatments and a lawyer.
In an email, Maras-Lindeman contradicted her being considered a member of the far-right and said she did not support violence.
“It is not a crime to discuss science and challenge today’s popular stories or express my thoughts and opinions,” she said.
On a recent thread, Ms. Maras-Lindeman addressed questions emailed to her about this article. She says she is a “hub” who simply encourages her viewers to be more politically active.
Paine’s channel has more than 14,000 followers and is rife with vaccine and cancer conspiracy theories. In one stream, he and a guest encouraged viewers to drink a bleaching solution believed to cure cancer, which the Food and Drug Administration deems dangerous. Last week, he mentioned QAnon’s belief that people were killing children to “harvest” a chemical compound from them, then talked about a “criminal group” that controlled the government, saying people don’t understand “what existential aspect they come from. “
Mr. Paine, who was banned from Twitter and YouTube, also asked his Twitch audience to donate to the Home campaign of JR Majewski, an Air Force veteran in Toledo, Ohio, who drew attention in the year. last for painted his lawn to look like a Trump Campaign Banner. Mr. Majewski used QAnon’s hashtag but shunned the movement in an interview with his local newspaper, The Toledo Blade.
Mr. Majewski has appeared on Mr. Paine’s streams, where they vape, chat about Mr. Majewski’s campaign goals and take calls from listeners.
“He’s exactly the kind of person we need in Washington, DC, so that we can replace these evil gang criminals and actually run our country,” said Paine. one thread.
Neither Mr. Paine nor Mr. Majewski responded to a request for comment.
Joan Donovan, a Harvard researcher who studies misinformation and online extremism, says streamers rely on audience generosity to finance themselves feeling pressure to continue to increase stakes.
“The incentives to lie, cheat, steal, hoax and cheat are so high when cash is easy to get,” she said.