Twitch is removing the anti-union ads that its parent company, Amazon, was running on the platform. The ads showed Amazon employees talking about why they want to vote no on unionization and directed viewers to Amazon’s “DoItWithoutDues” website. A Twitch spokesperson said the ads “should never have been allowed to run on [the] service,” as they violate its political advertising policies. Twitch also says that it is “evaluating [its] review processes to ensure that similar content does not run in the future.”
The ads were reported by More Perfect Union; their removal was first reported by Rod Breslau. The ads were the latest entry in a long campaign aimed at disrupting organization efforts at an Amazon warehouse outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Those efforts involve pulling employees into mandatory meetings, near-daily texts to employees, relentless anti-union posters in the workplace, and even reportedly changing the timing of traffic lights to disrupt a union drive. Amazon running the ads on a streaming platform it owns, however, was a very public move. It’s unclear if the company was targeting certain streams or viewers.
Reached for comment, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) president Stuart Appelbaum denounced the ad. “Amazon feels that it has to go to extremes like this in order to gaslight its workers about the dreadful working conditions at its Bessemer warehouse,” Appelbaum said, “Amazon is leaving no stone unturned – including ads on Twitch – in its efforts to deceive and intimidate their employees into voting against the union.”
Why Ads Have Been A Problem on Twitch
The newest change from Twitch is creating community outrage among streamers and viewers alike, as the company has implemented a greedy advertising model that sees mid-stream advertisements run automatically. Twitch remains the most popular streaming platform on the internet, but growth from competitors like YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming has been steady enough that the Amazon-owned company has been experimenting with new ways to both improve its services and generate revenue.
Following Twitch over the last year has been a wild ride for everyone interested, as the platform appeared to experience growing pains at a quick clip. Last summer, Ninja departed the platform for Mixer before returning earlier this year after that experiment failed. Ninja’s departure kickstarted a discussion on content creator salary and contracts, however, and since then several high-profile names have left Twitch in favor of other platforms – while others, like TimTheTatman, have doubled down on their presence on the purple brand. Between streamer turmoil, whatever happened with Dr. Disrespect, and the myriad controversies regarding the website’s content, Twitch has been a constant source of spectacle, often at its expense.
It doesn’t help when the company implements extremely greedy practices on its already mega-successful platform, but that’s what happened yesterday. Twitch announced on its Twitch Help blog that the company will be instituting “new ad experiences” on Twitch that will trigger automatically mid-stream for some viewers. While content creators will be paid for these advertisements – which they will have no control over – they will happen during content, and only supplemented by a Picture-by-Picture feature that will minimize what the viewer is seeing. Twitch also announced the new advertisments on Twitter, which went predictably poorly.
🔬 Starting today, we’ll be testing automated mid-roll ads for some viewers. These ads will directly support the Creator and won’t run if the viewer has had an ad break in that channel recently. Your feedback is welcomed to help shape this feature!
— Twitch Support (@TwitchSupport) September 14, 2020
In essence, it’s a greedy move from a company that doesn’t need to make it. Twitch is owned by Amazon, after all, and it’s unlikely mid-stream advertising is going to benefit a creator enough that it will outweigh the many turned off from the platform because of the abysmal practice. With that said, Twitch has confirmed that this is a test, and that it’s correlating feedback from both the Twitter responses and data from the experiment on the platform.
That means there is hope yet for Twitch walking back what has to be one of the most transparently greedy moves the company has made in recent memory. The most egregious part doesn’t feel like the announcement itself, either – it’s the position that this somehow benefits content creators, since they’ll get paid for the ad. Yeah, the ad that mutes their content mid-stream and shrinks it down so it can play second-fiddle to another 15 second reel on The Boys season 2. Somehow, that doesn’t add up – and thankfully, the community is calling Twitch out for it.
he union has also been having its own media push, with actor Danny Glover and Georgia politician Stacey Abrams encouraging workers to vote “yes.” Both talked about their connection with the South and how their upbringings and parents gave them respect for unions. The unionization fight comes after a string of troubling news for Amazon workers: the company allegedly forced its warehouse workers to work 10-hour overnight shifts, made plans to install always-on surveillance cameras in its delivery vehicles, and is being sued by the state of New York for allegedly failing to keep its frontline workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Alabama unionization vote began on February 8th and is scheduled to conclude on March 29th.