Matt Gaetz draws only six viewers to his inaugural Twitch stream

The congressman’s chat was filled with vulgar ASCII images left by detractors

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 27 September 2022 12:09 BST
Related video: Matt Gaetz ‘deeply regrets’ friendship with Joel Greenberg

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz announced last week that he would be throwing his hat into the online streaming ring and starting his own Twitch channel.

So far, his peak viewership has been six people.

Growing a community on Twitch is not easy. According to data from Sully Gnome and Twitch Tracker, the top one per cent of Twitch streams have an average of approximately 20 concurrent viewers during their streams. The users pulling in tens of thousands of viewers each stream are the platform's top 0.1 per cent, and account for around 74 per cent of the total watch time on the platform.

That being said, Mr Gaetz has an inherent advantage over a 16-year-old hoping to stream their Dungeons and Dragons campaign or their latest video game speed run — he's a congressman. Theoretically, he has a baked-in audience.

Mr Gaetz has 1.7m followers on Twitter, but it appears that very few — at least at this point — have followed him onto Twitch. He has 1,600 followers on the platform, but anyone can follow an account — subscriptions and viewers are what counts toward monetisation on Twitch.

Those who have followed him to the streaming site don't appear to be fans.

VICE News reports that after his inaugural livestream on Thursday — a 30 minute chat touching on the Capitol riot, right-wing conspiracy subject Ray Epps, and "wokeism" in schools with former Trump speechwriter Darren Beattie — Mr Gaetz left his chat running while he was offline.

This is common for Twitch streamers — many will allow their chats to stay active when they're not streaming, and some continue to participate with their communities offline. However, Mr Gaetz's viewers took the opportunity to slam him and leave vulgar ASCII images in the chat, including many depicting male genitals.

Some chat users also brought up the sex trafficking investigation that focused on Mr Gaetz — which prosecutors have since reportedly declined to pursue — calling him a "pedo" in the chat.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Gaetz for comment.

Based on the symbols used by the chatters, it appears most of the people mocking Mr Gaetz appeared to be fans of leftist Twitch streamer Hasan Piker. Mr Piker is one of the site's most popular streamers, and noted Mr Gaetz's addition to the platform on Twitter.

"This is certainly what we needed on the platform," Mr Piker wrote sarcastically.

Mr Gaetz's account retweeted the post with the message "I agree. Thanks for tuning in @hasanthehun. Don't forget to subscribe!"

Mr Piker took the opportunity to change his Twitter name to "gaetz pedo fbi investigation," ensuring that viewers on Mr Gaetz's Twitter page would see the name if they saw the congressman's retweet.

Mr Gaetz never deleted the retweet. Mr Piker has since changed his Twitter name back to his original name, Hasanabi.

Further adding to the pile-on was the fact that Mr Gaetz announced his intention to join the platform the day after Bloomberg published a bombshell report focused on "widespread child predation" on Twitch. The report claimed it found evidence of thousands of accounts that specifically target and follow kids and pre-teens streaming on the platform and leave predatory messages for the children in their chats.

Users on Twitter, including Mr Piker, posted screenshots of their feeds, showing Mr Gaetz's announcement alongside the Bloomberg headline "Child predators use Twitch to systematically track kids livestreaming."

Mr Gaetz joined the streaming platform at a tumultuous time; over the past two weeks, Twitch has been rocked by claims from streamers and fans that a prominent user, Sliker, was allegedly scamming them out of money to pay gambling debts, as well as an internal fight between streamers over gambling on the platform that snowballed into a sexual assault scandal implicating several notable streamers.

Sliker has admitted to asking fellow streamers and viewers for money under false pretenses and has apologised.

On top of all of that, the platform also announced it would be banning unregulated gambling sites from its streams and that it planned to change the way it paid streamers, leaving some of its top users to openly question whether they would remain on the site, according to the New York Times.

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