Last week, Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins dropped a racial slur into the middle of a song where it wasn’t used. He apologised and, aside from the criticisms, seems to have come out of it unscathed. Since then, however, a CS:GO commentator, Matthew “Sadokist” Trivett, has been suspended after using racist language and telling someone to kill themself. Responding to Polygon, Twitch clarified how it doles out suspensions.
Racial slurs are tackled in Twitch’s community guidelines, lumped together under “hateful conduct”.
"Hateful conduct is any content or activity that promotes, encourages, or facilitates discrimination, denigration, objectification, harassment, or violence based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, medical condition, physical characteristics, or veteran status, and is prohibited."
The language used by Blevins would certainly fall under “race, ethnicity”, but a Twitch representative explained that context and intent are investigated when Twitch streamers are reported. The guidelines also state that the team “consider a number of factors to determine the intent and context of any reported hateful conduct”.
So, as was the case with Blevins, the team might not react in the same way to a streamer dropping the n-word while rapping to a streamer using the word to attack someone. Though it’s worth reiterating that the song 44 More doesn’t contain the slur. Trivett, on the other hand, used the word as a pejorative and went on to verbally attack a community member.
While context is important when doling out punishments, it also implies that using slurs is sometimes more socially acceptable than others, and that if you’ve got a good enough excuse (and maybe, like Blevins, a good reputation), then you might be able to get away with it. It’s not a good message. Even if the intention isn’t hateful, the language absolutely is, and Twitch’s own guidelines say that hateful conduct is a “zero-tolerance violation”.
So it’s still not all that clear. Luckily the path to avoid a suspension is an easy one: Don’t use racial slurs.