A member of Twitch's new safety council is facing harassment for criticizing voice chat as non-inclusive
- Steph "FerociouslySteph" Loehr is facing harassment on
Twitchfor her comments against the platform's voice chat feature, which she said can be non-inclusive.
- Loehr said that her stance has been misconstrued by users who believed she would seek to remove the voice chat capability, a feature that allows gamers to communicate during competitions, from the platform.
- "The harassment is extreme, I'm exhausted," Loehr, who is a member of Twitch's new Safety Advisory Council, told Insider in an email.
- "Innumerable threats of violence, impersonating accounts being offensive, my personal info being revealed. I don't think anyone can be prepared for this level of negative attention," she said.
A popular Twitch streamer is facing harassment on the platform after the Amazon-owned live-streaming website announced her inclusion in an eight-person Safety Advisory Council.
Steph Loehr, who uses the handle FerociouslySteph online, told Insider that she is facing "threats of violence" because of her stance on the platform's voice chat feature, which Loehr said poses an "unfair" problem for users participating in streams. In a Twitch post on May 14 announcing the council, which will help "inform and guide" policies, the company said Loehr opposed "non inclusive mechanics such as voice chat."Loehr said that her stance has been misconstrued by users who believed she would seek to remove the voice chat capability, a feature that allows gamers to communicate during competitions, from the platform. As a member of the Safety Advisory Council, Loehr will not have direct decisionmaking responsibilities, but will "advise, offer perspective, and participate in discussions," Twitch CEO Emmett Shear said in a blog post on May 19. Advertisement
In an email to Insider, Loehr, who was one of the platform's first trans partners, explained that she is against voice chat because upon hearing one's voice, other users can make "people feel lesser about you or your play or harass you."
Loehr has more than 21,000 followers on Twitch, where she has been live-streaming fulltime for four years."I feel it is unfair to the point that removing it is the most fair, but my argument was never to take voice chat away. I only wanted to raise awareness of this problem and encourage alternative communication systems to lower this gap," Loehr said.
During a live-stream on May 14, as reported by Kotaku, Loehr further explained her opinions on voice chat. "If you use voice chat, you're revealing your linguistic profile, your voice, which can open you up to being harassed or considered less of a good player, because there are systemic issues with our society and how people treat nonstandard voices," she said.But some viewers were apparently incensed at the misunderstanding that Loehr's role on Twitch's council could directly threaten their ability to use voice chat. "The harassment is extreme, I'm exhausted," Loehr told Insider. "Innumerable threats of violence, impersonating accounts being offensive, my personal info being revealed. I don't think anyone can be prepared for this level of negative attention." Advertisement
How voice chat can lead to harassment
There have been multiple publicized cases of harassment against players who have voices that "don't fit the standard gamer dude profile," according to Kotaku.
In 2012, The New York Times reporter Amy O'Leary, who covered harassment in games, explained on NPR how voice chat can lead to harassment, noting, "women who get on with voice chat find that the minute that their voice sort of reveals their gender, they then become targets for harassment or come-ons or threats or taunts strictly because they're female."Similar harassment has been seen in the LGBTQ community. Twitch streamer OneWingedChris posted a YouTube video in 2018 documenting the excruciating harassment he experienced over voice chat after simply speaking in Overwatch.Advertisement
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