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Porn referral from Ninja’s old Twitch channel leads to his accusation of bad treatment

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Promoting Fortnite videos and 404’ing his old channel is not something Twitch does to others, he said

Tyler Ninja Blevins in a yellow hoodie, speaking to a large crowd at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals
Tyler “Ninja” Blevins before the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals on July 27.
Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Livestream superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins this afternoon alleged that Twitch, in the week since he left the streaming service for rival Mixer, has treated him with petty slights, the last straw coming today: A porn video was the No. 1 recommendation of channels that visitors to Ninja’s old URL saw. (Update: In the late afternoon, Ninja’s old URL was reverted to his account page.)

This takes some explaining (of course) but the gist of it is, since Aug. 1, twitch.tv/ninja does not show any of the streamer’s archived content. Instead, it gives users a 404 page with recommendations for Fortnite content. This afternoon, for a time, the first thumbnail linked to a stream with a Russian-language title and the image of two nude performers having sex. It appears that streamer Daniel “KEEMSTAR” Keem was the first to notice (warning: NSFW content at that link.)

At issue here isn’t just the objectionable content, but what Twitch is doing with Ninja’s 8-year-old URL since he announced on Aug. 1 his defection to Microsoft’s Mixer. Ninja says that other streamers who have left still have archival content available, the same as what visitors would see to someone who is simply offline. The 404 page given to him is not the one Twitch shows when users put in a mistyped URL or nonexistent streamer’s name, either.

That, Ninja alleges, was among some other changes and behavior over the past two days that he and his team took as parting shots on his way out the door. They weren’t worth creating a public fuss then, Ninja said, but they are now, as he wants the public to know he had nothing to do with this.

“Over the last couple of days, there have been some things that have been going on that we let slide,” Ninja said. “They were kind of annoying little jabs, we felt like, but it didn’t matter; we wanted to stay professional.”

But as far as how Twitch is treating his channel and URL, “They don’t do this for anyone else who is offline, by the way. Just me,” Ninja said. “I’ve been streaming for eight years, to build my brand, to build that channel, 14.5 million followers, and they were still using that channel to promote other streamers.”

Polygon has reached out to Twitch representatives to try to get to the bottom of what is going on. We’ll update when they have something to say.

“We’re trying to get the whole channel taken down,” Ninja said (on the Twitter video) of his old Twitch URL.

Ninja has been a streamer since 2011, his fame taking off alongside Fortnite when it got very big in 2017 and 2018. On Aug. 1, he made the surprise announcement that he would be leaving for Mixer, the service Microsoft launched in January 2016. The next day, Ninja’s first Mixer broadcast, from the Lollapalooza music festival, had more viewers than his average at Amazon-owned Twitch in the weeks before he left. Significantly, though, Twitch’s Fortnite content during Ninja’s first broadcast was about double his Mixer viewership. So, promoting that category on the whole is obviously important to them.

Update (Aug. 12): On Sunday evening Eastern time, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear apologized to Blevins in a Twitter thread. Shear explained that Twitch has been “experimenting with showing recommended content across Twitch, including on streamer’s pages that are offline,” but said that the company has suspended that program “while we investigate how this content came to be promoted.” He added that Twitch has permanently suspended the account that had hosted the pornography.

“On a more personal note, I apologize want to apologize directly to @ninja that this happened,” said Shear. “It wasn’t our intent, but it should not have happened. No excuses.”