Live-streaming platform Twitch has removed an emote from its platform called “TwitchCop.” The emote shows a cartoon character in a nondescript police uniform blowing a whistle. A spokesperson for Twitch confirmed to The Verge that they’d removed the emote “to prevent misuse” but did not offer more detail.
It can be assumed the removal is related to ongoing protests against police brutality and racism sparked by the killing of George Floyd by law enforcement. As protests have spread across the US, social media has been flooded with videos of unprovoked police brutality, as officers respond to peaceful protestors with pepper spray, truncheons, and rubber bullets.
Although judging by comments on social media it doesn’t seem like the emote was well-known, it’s possible users could have used it to troll or harass black streamers.
Emotes on Twitch are small images used by viewers to react to livestreams. Some, like “TwitchCop,” are global emotes, created by Twitch itself and available across all streams. Others are created by Twitch Partners and Affiliates (aka popular streamers) and available solely in their own channels. Emotes are incredibly varied, and can have different meanings depending on the context in which they’re used.
The “TwitchCop” emote seems to have been added to the platform’s global emotes after a vote in 2017. The official listing for the emote has been taken down but is still viewable via a cached URL. It’s not clear if it will be restored to the platform in the future.
A spokesperson for Twitch told The Verge: “We made the decision to proactively pull down the TwitchCop emote to prevent misuse. We are constantly evaluating our policies to ensure we are addressing emerging behaviors and language on our platform.”