When eSports and porn collide

That moment when Ninja challenged Twitch to a fight in Salty Springs

Former Twitch streamer, Ninja, has been throwing some major shade at his old streaming platform, Amazon-owned, Twitch.  The bad blood stemmed from a recent dispute about *cough* adult content.

If you’re currently scratching your head saying, ‘I know what adult content is but what’s eSports?’, ‘who’s Twitch?’ and ‘WTF is Ninja?’

Now, what is eSports first? To those who don’t know, eSports are multi-player video game competitions held online or offline (in person). It’s where gamers go to pit their skills against others, gain kudos and make money. And for some of the pro gamers, there’s serious money to be made, with some earning up to $20k/hour by setting up an online channel and streaming their gameplay on websites like ESL, Twitch, Mixer and Azubu.  

Ninja is one of those players.  He’s a professional streamer, YouTuber and gamer with over 22 million subscribers on YouTube (many aged between 7 and 14).  His game of choice is Fortnite and has an estimated annual income of $US$10m. And who said playing computer games will get you nowhere?!


So back to the bad blood

Earlier this month, Ninja left Twitch and took his Fortnite talents to Mixer, a rival streaming platform owned by Microsoft. Around the same time, Twitch began experimenting with a new recommendation feature, which turned Ninja’s ‘zombie’ profile into advertising space for promoting other, active livestreams. However, the first livestream happened to be a hardcore porn channel, so anyone who visited Ninja’s dormant Twitch channel got … a little more than they bargained for!

Ninja wasn’t happy.  Twitch apologised, pulled the plug and shut down the porn stream quicker than a jump decent from the Battle Bus and returned Ninja’s channel to its dormant state. Reports are that Ninja is considering legal action but this begs the question – can Ninja sue?

In the US, public figures can’t sue for defamation unless they can prove the conduct was motivated by “actual malice”.  Twitch was pissed at Ninja but it would be hard to prove it streamed the porn (which is actually in breach of its own terms and conditions) on purpose.

However, if the action were in Australia, Ninja may have a cause of action.  Defamation is a false, published statement that damages the reputation of an individual, group of people or a small business, or causes others to think less of them. It can be done by photos, videos or other imagery.  If people thought that Ninja promotes pornography, or condones the screening of pornography to children, this would be highly damaging to his reputation.

Platforms need to be careful and individuals need to be vigilant.  Most platforms have formal complaints processes and takedown procedures.  If you think your rights are being impacted, contact the platform.

Enjoyed this article about eSports? You can learn more about eSports and other law-related issues at Lodestar Legal.

If you have some questions or legal matter to resolve, call us.

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