The #BullyHunters controversy


April 12 marked the inaugural broadcast of the #BullyHunters live stream on the Twitch streaming service. Aiming to raise awareness about online harassment, the movement has met a roadblock with countless controversies having arisen because of the broadcast.

#BullyHunters was started by Natalie Casanova who is known as TheZombiUnicorn on YouTube and other social media. Having the financial support of the Steelseries brand of gaming headsets, the live streams would feature members playing the game “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” and looking for players being harassed. They would then “bully the bully” and stick up for those being harassed.

The stream, despite the positive message, was quickly met with criticism online. During the event, many statistics were presented without sources or context. When asked over Twitter, Casanova said that those asking for sources were harassing her, and they would be blocked. Additionally, researchers who were “gaming experts” were found to have not focused on that field in their research.

Another part of the show criticized was the “live” hunting of bullies. As the event was airing, and these bullies were being shown, many went to these accounts to report them. When the profile was viewed; however, the previous names of the account were the same bullies from earlier in the stream. Further research showed that the ones being harassed would also switch their name, this time to “hunt” the bullies. The site used to find this info can still be found here.

In addition to the sketchy information being presented, the charity that they were supporting led some to question the intent of the event. While donors expected the efforts to go towards fighting bullying, the donations were instead being made to the “Time’s Up” movement, which focusing on fighting sexual harassment in Hollywood rather than in gaming or mental health.

As more negative information was released about the event, Casanova tweeted that anyone who wanted to criticize the stream would be met with a DMCA strike on their content. Anyone hosting the stream was issued a harassment report, regardless of context. Additionally, no VOD (video on demand) would be available on the Twitch channel page.

Twitter user @PlatinumParagon, who actively researches psychology and its relations to gaming, found the sources used after the broadcast and published her analysis of them. She found that the data used was misrepresented and was using false statistics to push sales. The three million people cited by Casanova was actually based on a group of around 850 people, and the study wasn’t focused on PC gaming, which was the movement’s primary concern. The full analysis has been provided here.

Amidst countless YouTube scandals, #BullyHunters seems to add yet another negative picture of content producers. Similar to any movement, research is necessary if one is going to fully understand that movement. When research appears to be hidden or misrepresented, one may want to question why that is rather than accept the story as presented.

For those looking to support the issues of mental health, you should do your own research into organizations that help those in need. The Samaritans, which helps people struggling with depression or anxiety cope with their issues, is one such organization that can use financial support–if they meet with your approval.