Popular video game streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins isn’t on Amazon’s popular Twitch service anymore after Microsoft paid to move him to its competing Mixer earlier this month. But Ninja’s Twitch page lives on without him, existing in a zombie form that ended up accidentally promoting a pornographic channel over the weekend.
Most defunct, offline streamer pages on Twitch revert to a kind of permanent archival form, where streamers can point their followers to new locations and viewers can access old streams and clips. After Ninja’s Twitch departure, however, Twitch used that prime online real estate (which had over 14 million followers at its peak) to point users to other popular Fortnite streams on Twitch. “The Ninja you are looking for is in another castle” a header on the page read. “Check out these popular live channels.”
This deviation didn’t cause too much trouble for anyone until this weekend, when a stream featuring hardcore pornography somehow shot to the top of those Fortnite recommendations. Visitors to Ninja’s old Twitch page this weekend were faced with an explicit thumbnail from the stream along with a Cyrillic description of its contents. After the explicit content promotion was noticed, Twitch quickly reverted Ninja’s page the standard archival mode, as normal.
“Our community comes to Twitch looking for live content. To help ensure they find great, live channels we’ve been experimenting with showing recommended content across Twitch, including on streamer’s pages that are offline,” Twitch CEO Emmett Shear tweeted late Sunday.
“However, the lewd content that appeared on the offline channel page grossly violates our terms of service, and we’ve permanently suspended the account in question,” Shear continued. “We have also suspended these recommendations while we investigate how this content came to be promoted. On a more personal note, I apologize want to apologize directly [sic] to Ninja that this happened. It wasn’t our intent, but it should not have happened. No excuses.”
Ninja also used his own tweeted message to apologize for a situation that doesn’t seem to be his fault. He also expressed some barely contained anger towards Twitch itself.
“We haven’t said anything bad or negative about Twitch because there really hadn’t been any reason to,” Ninja said. “[But] I’ve been streaming for eight years to build my brand and build that channel: 14.5 million followers. And they were still using my channel to promote other streamers.”
“I have no say in any of this stuff,” he continued. “So this is the line, this is the straw, we’re trying to get the whole channel taken down to begin with, or at least not promote other streamers, other channels on my brand, on my freaking profile. So for anyone who saw that, for anyone whose kid obviously didn’t want to see that, I apologize and I’m sorry.”
“This wouldn’t even have been an issue if they didn’t use my channel to promote others in the first place…” Ninja added in a follow-up tweet.
Twitch has faced problems with this kind of explicit stream-trolling before, notably when the landing page for Valve’s Artifact was flooded with violent, pornographic, racist, misogynistic, and copyright-violating videos. Twitch took the extreme step of shutting down streaming for newly created accounts in the wake of that attack, and later it filed a lawsuit against 100 unnamed defendants the company says were responsible.
A year ago, the Google Play store faced a similar issue (with less damaging consequences) when Epic decided to move Fortnite off Google’s storefront, favoring direct downloads on Android instead. In response, Google inserted a customized message atop Fortnite searches on the Play store telling users that “Fortnite Battle Royale by Epic Games, Inc is not available on Google Play” and directing users to similar games.