Westcol: streamer threatens journalist on live stream

Westcol: streamer threatens journalist on live stream
Hate speech
Content Moderation

Last week, Westcol, a Colombian streamer with millions of followers on his various social networks, shared on his Instagram profile an image showing a chicken with a rope tied around its neck, accompanied by the message: "New pet. What should we call it? The publication provoked a wave of reactions, particularly on X (Twitter), where several users called the streamer an "animal abuser".

Screenshot of the Westcol story. Source: Publimetro.

The animal abuser label was quoted in quotation marks in the headline of an article written by journalist Juan Manuel Capera for the digital media Última Hora Col. The news was also published in Publimetro by Eliana Peñaloza who, after a tweet from Westcol dismissing the piece, received more than 400 insulting and death messages to the point of closing her X account, according to a statement from the Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP). For her part, journalist Luz Lancheros, who came out in support of her colleague Peñaloza, also received death threats.

Following the publication of the notes, Westcol explained that it was an image that had circulated on social networks until it became a meme and not a real photo. The streamer thanked his followers for the supportive comments and held a live stream on Kick, a new live streaming platform similar to Twitch, during which he contacted Capera by phone and threatened him to immediately remove the story from Última Hora Col. "This is how you solve problems with the country's newspapers," Westcol told his followers after hanging up the call.

Westcol's threatening tone continued to escalate during the transmission. After the call with Capera ended, he made more explicit comments. "I mean it: if I see the son of a bitch who wrote this headline on the street, I'll kick him in the face," he declared. He also hinted at more sinister measures when he spoke of sending "a parcel" as a form of retaliation to the journalist. However, almost immediately, he laughingly retracted his statement, specifying that it was only a joke and that he wanted to avoid legal problems: "I don't want lawsuits, it's just a joke," he clarified.

The moderation of live transmissions‍.

For Kick, the platform on which Westcol makes its live broadcasts, this type of behavior is prohibited even when it is presented as a joke, as the influencer tried to do after hanging up with the journalist. According to its hate speech policy, threats to kill or harm others are punishable. 

Although no direct physical harm is announced, the tone and context -with intimidating phrases against Capera- can be considered implicit threats. "With me things are not like that. Do you know where I come from, Dad? You're going to know if you don't remove that headline," Westcol warned Capera during the broadcast.

On the other hand, the streamer revealed Capera's personal Facebook profile live, including his phone number, which led the journalist to close his accounts and change his cell phone in the face of the intimidating messages he received after the call. This act could be considered as "engaging in cyberbullying or doxxing", which is explicitly prohibited by Kick's rules.

While the platform indicates that engaging in this type of behavior violates internal guidelines and results in enforcement action, it does not specify which specific measure applies to the hate speech policy. In general, while moderation mechanisms, both automatic and based on user reports, are applicable for these cases, the ephemeral nature of live streams complicates their review.

Kick gained prominence among content creators after Twitch, the leading streaming platform, announced changes to limit external advertising on broadcasts. This platform, which has been operating since January 2023, not only offers a monetization scheme in which content creators receive 95% of subscription revenues, as opposed to Twitch's 50/50, but also a less strict moderation system by allowing, for example, semi-erotic content.

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