TTP Report: Twitch Spreading Russian Misinformation on Ukraine
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 13, 2022
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report showing that multiple channels on Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming platform, have been actively spreading Russian-fueled misinformation about the war in Ukraine. Some of these channels are even using Twitch to generate revenue through subscriptions and advertising, meaning Amazon is helping purveyors of Russian misinformation make money, and is taking a cut of the proceeds itself.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “While platforms like Facebook and Twitter have already faced intense scrutiny over their handling of misinformation surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Twitch has largely escaped the spotlight. Since Twitch has a particularly young audience, it may not be front of mind for many misinformation watchers; nevertheless, its effectiveness as a tool to spread disinformation is no less potent.”
Twitch, as part of its new policy against “harmful misinformation actors,” said it would block Russian state media from establishing a presence on the platform. But TTP found that some Twitch streamers are circumventing these rules.
One example is the Twitch channel “vietgal,” which shared a continuous stream of RT, the Russian state-controlled network, in Spanish. Another channel called “Israelcreative” had a stream of Russia Channel One, another state media outlet. All of the streams on this channel since March 13 had the same title in Russian: “De-Nazification and Demilitarization of Ukraine.”
Beyond the direct rebroadcasting of Russian state media, other streamers have been taking Russian talking points and conspiracy theories and disseminating them to viewers in their own words.
“InfraredShow,” a channel with about 19,500 followers and a purple checkmark indicating it’s been verified by Twitch, featured hours-long rants spreading widely debunked Russian propaganda about the war in Ukraine. One InfraredShow video streamed on Feb. 24—the day Russia began its invasion—was titled “RUSSIAN SPECIAL OPERATION AGAINST UKRAINIAN AGGRESSION,” echoing the language the Kremlin has used to describe the war.
Another channel, “JacksonHinkleTV,” had about 4,200 followers and offered several streams with the title “PUTIN 71% APPROVAL.” In one of them, on March 20, the host spread a false conspiracy theory that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had fled Ukraine and produced a video making it appear that he was still in the country.
TTP’s findings reveal major holes in Twitch’s policy enforcement at a time of heavy Russian misinformation about the war in Ukraine. The platform’s monetization of this content should draw further concern, particularly with the financial incentive it creates for these channels to double down on their dissemination of misinformation.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Amazon has more than enough resources to remove dangerous misinformation from Twitch, but it has seemingly turned a blind eye. If it won’t properly enforce the Twitch misinformation rules that it has already put in place, then these policies serve no purpose beyond public posturing.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.