How the Dr Disrespect scandal sent the gaming industry’s whisper network into overdrive

How the Dr Disrespect scandal sent the gaming industry’s whisper network into overdrive

By Alexander Lee  •  July 5, 2024  •

Influencer arena

Ivy Liu

When allegations of sexual misconduct by Guy “Dr Disrespect” Beahm went public in June, the news shocked many fans of the prominent gaming creator. But to industry insiders, last month’s scandal was simply the culmination of a years-long, behind-the-scenes conversation about Beahm’s brand safety issues.

Reports that Beahm had inappropriately messaged a minor via Twitch’s internal chat service in 2017 have been corroborated by Rolling Stone, Bloomberg and The Verge, as well as a statement tweeted out by Beahm himself. The exact nature and extent of that misconduct is unclear, though Beahm acknowledged that it had involved “inappropriate” conversations with a minor.

What is clear, however, is that many workers and observers within the gaming industry became aware of the alleged misconduct soon after Twitch banned Beahm following an investigation in 2020. Although many of the individuals involved in the investigation were prevented from speaking publicly about it due to non-disclosure agreements, word of the sexual misconduct nature of the ban was implicitly clear to many Twitch employees, who were familiar with the reporting and banning process even if they were not privy to the specific details of Beahm’s case. Twitch has not responded to Digiday’s requests for comment.

“A lot of people lived in this space, and they heard and knew that it involved communications with a minor,” said a former Twitch staffer with knowledge of Beahm’s 2020 ban, who spoke to Digiday on condition of anonymity. “It was considered CSAM [child sex abuse material]. But beyond that, that was it. So you can imagine, that’s a very, very delicate conversation.”

In spite of the NDAs, some Twitch staffers took immediate action to spread the word of Beahm’s misconduct following the 2020 ban — as made evident by the fact that gaming chat service Discord removed Beahm from its own partner program shortly after the streamer was removed from Twitch. 

A Discord representative confirmed to Digiday that Beahm had been kicked off of the partner program based on information shared by a trusted industry peer, and that Discord’s trust and safety team was and is in contact with teams at other platforms, such as Twitch, both informally and through formal partnerships

Although the specific reasons behind Beahm’s ban did not become widespread knowledge until last month, when former Twitch account director of strategic partnerships Cody Conners tweeted an explanation of the ban, some voices raised a public alarm about the troubling nature of the streamer’s misconduct as early as 2020. Esports journalist Rod Breslau, for example, tweeted shortly after Beahm’s ban from Twitch alluding to the sensitivity of the subject.

However, Breslau did not publicly disclose more details about the story at the time, resulting in the tweet getting ignored or disregarded by some elements of the gaming scene.

“That tweet, which has been memed on and made fun of tens of thousands of times, was a mistake, even if it was an accurate warning to everybody else about what was happening,” Breslau said. “Because of the tweet, back then, all the additional accurate reporting that I was doing [regarding Beahm’s move to YouTube and other related topics] ended up being lost in the ether.”

Memes notwithstanding — and although Beahm’s sponsorship business remained strong after the 2020 Twitch ban — some more plugged-in brands and marketers did learn of the misconduct and acted accordingly in the years between 2020 and 2024, both thanks to public tweets such as Breslau’s and through conversations behind closed doors with in-the-know staff at platforms such as Twitch and Discord, according to both Breslau and the anonymous Twitch staffer.

As stated by Beahm himself during an April Twitch stream, multiple major non-endemic brands pulled out from planned partnerships with the livestreamer following the 2020 controversy, though it is unclear exactly what level of knowledge either brand had regarding the nature of Beahm’s misconduct. Representatives of both Nike and Oakley, two brands specifically named by Beahm, did not respond to requests for comment.

“We lost out on a lot of big deals, a lot in the sponsorships,” Beahm said during the April stream. “I mean, shit. We had Nike; we were talking to Oakley. That’s no joke, man — I can bring up Oakley prototypes right here.”

Now that the scandal has gone public, the other shoe has officially dropped for Beahm’s sponsorship business. Current and former sponsors such as Gillette, Mountain Dew and the San Francisco 49ers quickly distanced themselves from Beahm last month, and the livestreamer was fired from his role at Midnight Society, a game studio he co-founded in 2021.

In his tweeted statement, Beahm vowed that he would return to livestreaming after taking a post-controversy hiatus. When he comes back, he will have to contend with the fact that a much wider segment of the gaming world has now been made aware of his alleged misconduct.

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