Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch considers “cracker” a serious racial slur, a fact many only learned this week after socialist streamer Hasan Piker and others were banned for saying it. This latest bizarre moderation decision comes months after protests for Twitch’s failure to protect streamers of color for racism and harassment.
The ban wave began with Piker’s mods who were removed after using the words in chat earlier this week. Some of Piker’s fans considered the term hateful and out of line. Piker did not. “I’ve been called ‘cracker’ more times than every single one of you fucking pasty little cracker bitches in my chat, okay?” he said at one point.
After Piker came to his mods’ defense, he was also hit with a ban starting on December 13. Whether or not cracker should be a bannable offense was catapulted into discourse, meaning that streamers like Ian “Vaush” Kochinski started using the term in their commentary on the controversy—only to also get banned for it. Another streamer, Fawn, was also recently banned from Twitch, and wrote on Twitter that she believed it was for the same reason.
The term cracker dates back to at least Shakespeare, and was historically deployed against poor white people and immigrants by other white people. At some point last century it started also being used specifically by Black people against racist white people. Now, as the far right tries to fuel racist panics wherever it can keep its stranglehold over this country, culture warriors have tried to elevate cracker into an anti-white slur as offensive as any other racial epithet. The problem, of course, is that racism refers to overarching power structures, not if an innocuous word made you feel bad. Nor is “cracker” equivalent to words historically used to subjugate and literally harm BIPOC.
Twitch’s community guidelines bans any and all hateful conduct, but is ambiguous on what it does or doesn’t count as hateful when it comes to certain racialized phrases. “We do not make our list of slurs public so as not to enable or facilitate evasion of this policy,” the guidelines state. “Further, we take context into account when evaluating whether use of a slur violates our policies.”
“‘Cracker’ being a bannable offense is so hilariously deranged. just placating the most fragile manchildren in the world who themselves know they’re just feigning outrage over nothing,” wrote Twitter power user Zei Squirrel.
Twitch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The platform taking firm action against the use of cracker comes after loads of criticism earlier this year, and arguably since Twitch’s inception, of failing to take the safety concerns of creators of color seriously, particularly for Black streamers. Over the summer, users made use of Twitch’s raid feature to flood the chats of Black and marginalized streamers with a range of abusive language, including slurs.
The rise of these hate raids, and Twitch’s slow response to dealing with them, led to the rise of a #TwitchDoBetter hashtag and an eventual all-day boycott by some streamers on September 1. Later that month, Twitch reportedly sued at least two of the people behind some of the hate raids as part of a larger response to addressing some of the platform’s shortcomings.
This is only the third time Hasan has been banned from the platform. One previous instance occurred after he said that “America deserved 9/11” because of its past history of foreign wars and human rights abuses.
UPDATE 1:45am ET, December 21: After “1 week, 3 minutes and 49 seconds”, HasanAbi is back: