Behind Twitch's Money Laundering Problem
When Twitch's revenue data leaked in early October, the internet lost its mind over how much top streamers like NickMercs, Ludwig, and Pokimane were making. Twitch, obviously, wasn't bothered by those numbers- but they did get suspicious about some Turkish streamers. The streamers who caught Twitch's eye weren't Smash pros or Vtubers, and they averaged a (relatively) modest 40-50 viewers per stream … but they were absolutely raking in cash.
Twitch viewers can give money to their favorite streamers by cheering with Bits. Each Bit is worth one cent USD to a streamer. Bits are usually bought in $5 packs- a good day's wage for 8 hours of mashing buttons and meme-ing. Cheering usually lets viewers display a message on stream or pop up some fun picture that the community loves.
Or, if you're a Turkish scammer, they let you clean dirty money. Using stolen credit cards, scammers would cheer a lot of Bits to a streamer. The streamer would then refund the Bits to the scammer's account, now connected to a different bank account. In exchange, the streamer would keep 20-30% of the donated Bits.
Except for the awkward truth that, apparently, this was already an open secret among Turkish streamers. Grimnax, a popular Turkish variety streamer, said, "This is something that many of us have been aware of for a long time, but we couldn't Twitch and the owner Amazon nor the audience for year…. We waited for the prominent names on the platform to talk about this issue, as I and mid-level influencers like me weren't loud enough."
Awwwwwkward. But the issue became impossible to ignore once the revenue leaked and the scope of the scamming operation became apparent. According to Haberler, a Turkish news outlet, there were 2400 streamers involved in money laundering a total of almost $10 Million. In Bits, that's a cool Billion. Even for top streamers, that's… pretty good. Some of the streamers were raking in $1,800 every day. I stream myself, and I can tell you:
Twitch stated, "We want to assure our community that we do not hesitate to take decisive action against accounts engaged in prohibited conduct." But it may as well have been, "We don't care where the money comes from until it becomes publicly awkward for us," considering how much they did hesitate to take action. Apparently, if you want Twitch to dole out a little justice, you just have to get the Vice-President of a major political party to call on a nation's equivalent of the SEC. And after that, they won't hesitate to ban a couple of streamers.
Top Image: Marco Verch/Flickr