(Thanks to the Twitch moderator known as Uncleswagg.)
Twitch has quickly become a household name after its acquisition by Amazon. You can watch strangers livestream just about anything these days, working out, body painting; you can even tune in and watch someone else eating. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the live, relatable entertainment you can find on Twitch. Twitch’s broadcasts have attracted 40 Million viewers and counting. The moderation and tools to protect its content creators and users is constantly getting better and better. Of course, this wasn’t always the case.
Rewind to six years ago when Twitch was the gaming livestream platform of Justin.tv. You were considered big time if you managed to have 1,000 people tuning into your stream concurrently. Reckful broke the odds with his first stream, attracting 10,000+ gamers to witness his fateful return to World of Warcraft live. You also were only allowed to stream video gaming content, and moderating the chat was a struggle with the lack of resources Twitch had at the time to handle it.
Between 2012–2014, clicking on a link from someone you didn’t know was nearly a guarantee to get you a front-row seat to nude photographs of a streamer or other well-known female gamer. If you wanted to see your favorite lady streamer naked, roll the dice and click an imgur.com link and maybe, just maybe, it would be your lucky click.
One day in July, 2012, I was listening to my Warlock friend’s chat when the chatters started discussing the contents of an imgur link that was posted. They described the size and fall of the breasts, the nipples, the moles, the skin tone. I felt sick. They continued to describe the scene of the photo. I recognized it. I didn’t see it, but I knew exactly which photo it was. I was at work, so I couldn’t click it to confirm.
Shaking, I texted the link to the guy I was seeing at the time. I told him it had just been posted in Twitch chat and from the discussion they had I thought it was of me. He confirmed what I already knew, they were mine. I didn’t say a word in chat. They stopped talking about them. I waited, hoping the lack of attention I gave the matter would end it. The guy I was seeing, and my friends, reported the image to imgur as abuse/posted without consent and it was deleted.
Moments later, someone from my past, a guy much younger than me who I had played World of Warcraft with, appeared in the chat, saying he had heard I was there, and he was disappointed that I was AFK. My heart sank. It wasn’t going to stop. The year prior, I had been involved with someone online and he was the person who originally set out to humiliate me by leaking naked photographs of me to our entire server. He had written some kind of program that automatically re-uploaded the photos whenever I managed to get them deleted, and was sharing them with everyone we knew. It sucked. It was my first time being humiliated by someone I used to care about in that way, and I had to talk to the police about how to get him to stop.
After getting some very intimidating verbiage to use from the cops, I talked with this person and he agreed to stop, and delete them from his computer. I don’t know if he felt guilty, or scared, but in my mind it was over. This person has since apologized to me for his behavior and made amends.
As it turns out, I was wrong.
Someone had saved those photos, and was angry at me for being involved with someone from WoW that wasn’t him.
Those same photos that were circulated amongst 75–100 people the year before were being repeatedly added to imgur, posted in Twitch chats where I frequented. My friends and I would spam Imgur’s abuse email to take them down, and speak directly with Twitch staff to get the users linking them banned. It went on for two months, but died down with the last deletion at the end of August of 2012.
I was relieved. It was over and while a handful of people I knew in Twitch and some strangers had seen them, it seemed pretty well contained thanks to my friends and their diligence with Twitch and Imgur staff. No photo got more than a couple hundred views, and there were friends of mine who had tens of thousands of views on the albums that got made of them. One friend had a revenge porn video leaked, and at the time, had clocked in 100,000 views. We all denied that it was me, and the person I was seeing agreed that they weren’t me to those that asked us.
The whole experience sucked, but it could have been worse, and once again, I thought it was over.
Once again, I was wrong.
In the third week of October of 2012, I started receiving dozens and dozens of messages on Twitch about the photos.
Everyone seemed quite certain at this point they were me, and the volume of messages I was getting was outrageous. Everyone was talking about them. Critiquing them. A streamer said that my veins looked like an atlas, and I was ridiculed as ‘The World Map tits’. I couldn’t really understand why all of the sudden this had started up again when it seemed to have died down a nearly two months before.
I was even getting creepy messages from guys I knew from other video games years before.
Someone finally linked me the album, and my heart was in my stomach. It had over 300,000 views. Unlike the other albums, this one wasn’t uploaded anonymously. It belonged to an imgur user named Uncleswagg, who was apparently known for hoarding and distributing nudes from women on Twitch and World of Warcraft. He had dozens of albums of nude photographs, the most complete collection in all of the Twitch community. When he received the small collection of my photographs from a source, he learned there was someone I had been involved with in the past who may have more and contacted him to get more photos for his album.
The worst part of it was that Uncleswagg was proud of it. No number of emails to Twitch and Imgur staff seemed to result in the deletion of the albums, and he prided himself on his ability to keep the links permanent. He had gained the notoriety he so desperately wanted by harassing women with revenge porn, and being the central hub for ‘exposing’ the women of the gaming industry with illegal nudes.
After a couple months of desperate attempts to get the harassment of myself and others in his imgur account to stop, we found the albums all gone, with only his creepy albums of Reckful, Sodapoppin, Pikaboo, and Samuelx left. It was too late, though. The harassment was ongoing, and I couldn’t enter a Twitch channel without hearing some commentary about my breasts, or being called a whore. I deleted my Twitch account, and made a new one. A fresh start, sans the sexual abuse via messages and chat comments.
You would think at this point that Uncleswagg had decided to stop harassing women, maybe for a future career, maybe he decided to stop being such a horrible human being… but then in May of 2013, the harassing messages started again on my new account.
I recall him writing some post about why he put all the albums back up, with of course my updated username on my particular album, but I can’t find it. It was some bullshit about censorship and the community’s right to know who we are as women. As if because we share our bodies with some men consensually, that means the rest of the gaming community is entitled to see us naked? Furious, I reached out to him on Twitch asking him to remove them, again. I pleaded that I had a child and a job I cared about, and that the harassment was more than I could mentally bear.
I, and others, are still harassed over these photographs, even five years later. I try to play it off now, making sure to let Uncleswagg know the indelible burden his actions have had on my life.
The thing is — he claimed that they are deleted from his account, and from his computer, yet they were re-uploaded in August of 2017, with the SAME album ID as before. They show no user information anymore, nor do they appear on his Imgur account, but the same URL I reported to Imgur staff in October of 2013, when clicked, ends in naked photos of me that I did not put there. (I’ve reported them again, maybe this time they will disappear for good?)
Update: I’ve spoken directly with Uncleswagg about this. He says it wasn’t him, and has no idea how someone could have reactivated the album. I believe him.
Seeing this person converse with some of my lifelong friends who now work at Blizzard has been horrifying. Not just for me, but for the other women whose personal lives were destroyed by his actions. To see him say that he has never been disrespected so hard after being unmodded in a channel for a company that doesn’t even employ him is infuriating.
You know what’s disrespectful? Repeatedly hoarding nude photographs of women who didn’t consent for you to not only be in possession of, but also for you to distribute those photographs to at least nearly A MILLION PEOPLE. How about harassing men from their past for even more photos. How about having all of this done to you, and never get a single apology or statement about how you humiliated all of us because of your personal issues and selfish aspirations for celebrity in the gaming community?
I am absolutely tired of seeing women’s online lives be destroyed by revenge porn, and it’s something that ran absolutely rampant on Twitch because of a single individual, Uncleswagg. Uncleswagg, who has never faced any consequences for his actions that have never stopped affecting the women he harassed, and is now being rewarded for his dedication to Blizzard and Overwatch as some impeccable Twitch moderator. Please.
The single most demeaning part of his rise to becoming a moderator in competitive esports is that he didn’t even feel the need to change his username. Must be nice.
I’ve had enough. Time to reap what you sow.
Uncleswagg has indirectly acknowledged his actions:
He has not reached out to me, or the other woman who publicly confirmed she also had an album on his shrine, or showed any remorse or regret for his actions. He didn’t even name me, or anyone else, in this. He ends it asking for understanding.
To Uncleswagg: I don’t understand. You claim to have made an effort to leave a positive trail in your wake, but that’s pretty hard to believe given the numerous chances I’ve personally given you to make amends with me as you built your community. I was incredibly kind and patient with you when requesting you stop fucking harassing me via nude hoarding, and during that time, you also made an excuse, and didn’t apologize for your actions. You pursued making a name for yourself with a company you knew I worked for, and still made no effort to make amends for, or even acknowledge what you had done to me, and to others.
I’ve spoken directly in DMs with Uncleswagg.
After a lengthy conversation about what he did, how it affected myself and others, and why his original response was inappropriate and disingenuous, he has apologized directly to me, publicly:
I do believe that he does feel remorse for his actions now, but I still want to ripple this through our community.
Whatever any man or woman gives you with your consent is private. We keep saying there’s a risk if you send nudes that they will be leaked, but that’s simply because there’s little consequence to doing so. Risk mitigation is certainly not a part of general conversation unless you’re an insurance broker, right?
This narrative needs to shift. You can’t both expect and want private pornography from your lovers and/or friends with benefits while simultaneously having an attitude that there is not only a reasonable reason to believe that they will be stolen or leaked and distributed without your permission, but that others are entitled to their access once one person leaks them. If you want the chance at those photos and videos from those you are intimate with, then don’t use your precious time to tell someone that they shouldn’t share private photos and videos with someone if they aren’t willing to risk even just one other person seeing them without their consent.
The problem with this attitude is generally that the same people who say it’s your fault for ever sharing them, are the same people who want to see them spread. Really, they are just blaming you so they don’t have to take responsibility for encouraging and welcoming the behavior:
Take the side of the victim. They don’t need you to condescendingly warn them about how nudes can be leaked. They already know, as they have had them leaked. If you want to teach someone about online safety with private content, teach a class. Mentor some teenagers, and while you’re at it, tell those teenagers not to distribute pornographic material without the subject’s consent, and punish the ones that do.
I’m super proud of the majority of the responses I’ve gotten to sharing this. It’s been really empowering for the other women who have been affected who didn’t feel able to come forward. We’ve still got a ways to go, but I don’t regret sharing this one bit.