The folks behind livestreaming service Twitch have (once again) found themselves in hot water. This time, it’s all thanks to some customized sub emotes they created to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (which runs from Sep. 15 to Oct. 15). Twitch has now removed the emotes and apologized, but some people feel like that’s not quite enough.
It’s simultaneously super surprising and also not even slightly surprising that something can miss the mark so severely in 2020 — but Twitch is obviously not the first company to have to perform the ol’ open-mouth-insert-foot routine this year. It seems as though this particular issue has now been (more or less) resolved, but here’s a quick summary of what happened for anyone who missed it.
Twitch is apologizing for its Hispanic Heritage Month emotes.
In an effort to presumably be more inclusive of its many Latinx streamers (and viewers), Twitch announced several moves it’d be making to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in 2020. First, Twitch will be featuring notable Latinx streamers on its front page every day through Oct. 15 as a way to highlight those creators on the platform. Cool! Nothing problematic there — although one could certainly hope to see more diversity on the front page at all times!
The non-profit organization Latinx in Gaming will also be hosting a virtual summit entitled Unidos Online on its Twitch channel from Oct. 9–11. It aims to “spotlight the unique intersection of Latinx culture and all things games related.” Also very cool!
Unfortunately, Twitch made another not-so-cool move by putting out three emote modifiers that they said were intended to be a part of their celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The emotes included maracas, a sombrero, and a guitar, which many people pointed out are typically used to represent Mexican culture — not all people from all Hispanic countries.
these emote customizations look like they were made by a white dude who celebrated cinco de mayo ON TIME IN THE SUBURBS— detune (@xdetune) September 15, 2020
If you weren’t aware, there are many Hispanic countries in the world that span three different continents — using emotes that only appear to represent people from one country — and stereotypical emotes at that — is definitely not a great look for a company that’s trying to toot its own inclusivity horn.
As you might expect, people were quick to point out the problem with these emotes from Twitch, saying that they were based on Mexican stereotypes and were therefore oversimplifying and homogenizing Hispanic cultures. “This type of crap is just contributing to the stereotype that all of us are Mexican when our cultures are so diverse, one Twitter user said. “Maybe next time have a Hispanic person in your board meeting so this doesn't happen.”
After the BLM clip a few weeks ago you'd think Twitch would show more sensibility towards minorities on their platform.— ☕️ELA 🌸✊🏾 B L M ✊🏽✊🏿 (@TheCafeEla) September 15, 2020
Hire more diverse staff and run this content by third party experts (or even your own creators). Repeatedly missing the mark (BY FAR) & apologizing is not it
For its part, Twitch was also quick to apologize for the error. “We launched these emote modifiers today as part of our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month but we clearly missed the mark, and we apologize,” they said. “These were not an appropriate representation of Hispanic and Latinx culture, and we’ve removed them.”
Obviously, an apology is a great first step, but many people feel as though that’s not enough coming from the streaming giant. Many feel as though this cringe-worthy error could definitely have been avoided if Twitch had a more diverse team working behind the scenes. That certainly couldn’t hurt, right? At the very least, it might cut down on the number of apologies Twitch has to make.