Twitch Bans Marxist-Leninist Streamers for Misinformation
(Opinion) Analysis on recent allegations of censorship during the Russia-Ukraine conflict
On April 13, 2022, the Tech Transparency Project published a report on Twitch spreading misinformation about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, followed by a Financial Times article, written by Dave Lee. As a result of this publishing, it appears to have led to the removal of the InfraredShow, JacksonHinkleTV, and others from Twitch’s platform. The aftermath of these removals resulted in quite a bit of online discussion, specifically surrounding InfraredShow (Haz) & JacksonHinkleTV (Jackson), and whether the removals of these two were appropriate.
The author of the Financial Times article immediately received backlash on Twitter, which he responded to with a series of Tweets:
Dave Lee @DaveLeeFTNew: Amazon’s Twitch bans channels after researchers find pro-Russia propaganda; Twitch accused of not following through on promise to get on top of information war https://t.co/NRFyLpyQ2l
It appears Lee attempted to contact Haz during a livestream, having typed in Twitch Chat, it is unclear as to why Lee thought that to be an appropriate place to get a comment on such serious allegations. Not every journalist shared Lee’s views about the situation:
Haz 🇷🇺 @InfraHazBREAKING: The reason for both my and @jacksonhinklle's ban from @Twitch was because they were contacted by journalists from the @FinancialTimes today after a Tech Transparency Project Report defamed our stream content as Kremlin propaganda. https://t.co/91pPOXx81D
The Financial Times did not offer any unique analysis into the situation, instead it appears they piggybacked off of the TTP report, echoing their assertions that both of the aforementioned streamers were engaging in misinformation.
The report outlines the following for their alleged misinformation claims:
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. On the video, the host claimed that Putin had to go into Ukraine to stop genocide in the eastern part of the country: “Ukraine is sending these thugs, these genocidal neo-Nazi scum to the region to harass, terrorize, and attack the people living there.” That rhetoric mimics Putin’s false claims that Ukraine has been killing ethnic Russians and that its government is dominated by Nazi elements.
- Tech Transparency Project
The Twitch channel “JacksonHinkleTV,” which had about 4,200 followers, 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. “Zelensky’s clown show is being exposed … thanks to the advent of modern technology,” the host said. “I'm not saying he's in Poland, but if you're being accused of not being in Kiev… why would you film a video in front of a green screen and try to pass it off as a real video?"
- Tech Transparency Project
It seems that the content of the TTP report exclusively covers on-air content between Jackson and Haz. In the official communications from Twitch, sent to Haz specifically, it notes that the offense occurred “off of Twitch’s services” - meaning there is a direct contradiction between the reason Twitch issued the ban and the allegations presented by TTP and the Financial Times, whom focus on content created on Twitch’s services.
There is a lot to unpack here, so we will simply go through each of the claims, one by one, to see they fall under Twitch’s policy for banning misinformation actors:
If we were to grant TTP’s assertions outright, without any formal investigation, the actions still fall short of advocation of violence. Thinking Vladimir Putin is ‘good’ or taking Russia’s side in the 2022 Ukraine-Russia conflict is not advocating violence. Additionally, making comments about a green screen potentially being involved in Zelensky’s filmed appearances hardly come close to any consistent pattern of misinformation, or calls for violence.
Claims of Genocide
One of the primary points of contention mentioned in TTP’s report was the assertion that Haz’s claims of “Putin going into the Ukraine to stop genocide in the eastern part of the country,” is “widely debunked Russian propaganda.”
However, when we look closely at Putin’s accusations, we see that Haz’s comments are perfectly reconciled with Russia’s Special Military Operation announcement published by the United Nations. In fact, the United Nations has studied these accusations of human rights abuses since at least 2014.
Based on the United Nation’s own reporting, we have evidence of arbitrary detention, torture, executions, sexual abuse, and targeting off basis of ethnicity at the hands of the SBU. Of course, the report also charges that the Donetsk and Luhansk breakaway republics are also engaging in similar arbitrary detention, labeling them as “armed groups.” In their second report, they noted civilians being targeted specifically for their ethnic background, sexual orientation, or whether they are considered “pro-Russian.”
It is unclear as to why TTP wanted to portray the claims of supposed “neo-Nazi scum,” as Haz put it, as a falsehood. It is a well-established fact that Ukraine has battalions within its National Guard, that fly swastikas and subscribe to Nazi ideology. Additionally, Ukraine is no stranger to genocide. In fact, their current national hero, Stefan Bandera, engaged in ethnic cleansing of Polish ethnic groups in 1943.
Clip from Euronews: funded in whole or in part by the European Union
Another, less talked about perspective, is that Ukraine has a well-documented history of artificially inflated nationalistic tendencies. In one declassified CIA document, it reveals:
As the situation in Ukraine is still on-going, it would be irresponsible to ban users for misinformation when Secretary of State Victoria Nuland confirmed the existence of what she called “Biological research facilities.” In the video she expresses deep concern about the potential for these facilities to fall in the hands of Russia.
Additionally, New York Post went even further than Haz or Jackson, going as far as to suggest Hunter Biden worked at one of these biolabs. This makes for a really shaky case to ban someone for misinformation on the basis of something already widely discussed in the public discourse and purported by mainstream outlets.
We have a situation where Ukraine has been the subject of Western interference for a little over half a century, couple this with torture, executions, indefinite detention, sexual abuse, and a national hero who ethnically cleansed minority groups. The entire context of Ukraine’s history, especially the last 8 years, reveals that Vladimir Putin is not basing his accusations of ‘genocide’ and ‘denazification’ on nothing.
As the situation is still currently developing in Ukraine, is it really appropriate for Twitch to remove streamers reporting on something that is not as black and white, as the Tech Transparency Project are implying? We do not think so.
With documented evidence of crimes against humanity being committed within that region for a period of 8 years. Even if we were to grant that everything mentioned on these streams were false, it still falls short of Twitch’s own terms of service, let alone removing a streamers source of income over disagreeing with their opinions.
It is also important to remember that the Western press has reported on Ukrainian neo-Nazis prior to the current conflict. The United States government also previously revoked a ban on funding Neo-Nazis from its year-end spending bill, giving more evidence to support Putin’s claims for a need of ‘denazification.’
What is to be said about the misinformation from the West? The picture above was tweeted out by a verified profile accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Mariupol, implying they are using a mobile crematorium to hide their crimes.
If we take this image and analyze it using a reverse image search tool such as TinEye - We can immediately see that this image is a duplicate of images posted as early as 2015. In other words, the above Tweet is blatant misinformation.
It is still unclear whether Twitch will take similar measures against those spreading misinformation of a pro-Ukrainian stance on their platform. This is a fair question to ask given this NBC News segment reveals to us that:
The “intelligence wasn’t very clear on exactly what was going on” and is the result of “an unprecedented use of declassified intelligence”, and “we’ve never seen this level of information warfare before, from the U.S Government.”
In other words, it is nonsense. (Don’t take our word for it, watch!)
This is Silly
Throughout our analysis, we were unable to find any compelling evidence that would indicate Haz, or Jackson were inciting any form of violence during their broadcasts.
Their opinions on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, while differing from the dogmatic views of the West, are based on evidence collected by the United Nations, in addition to the West’s own media, and declassified documents.