A Canadian Twitch user has been brought up on criminal charges for allegedly sending hundreds of thousands of offensive messages through the platform’s internal chat system. The messages hit more than 1,000 different channels on the platform (best known for letting people live-stream their video game playing) and included more than 150,000 with racist, antisemitic, sexist and homophobic slurs, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
Officially, 20-year-old Brandan Apple has been charged with “mischief in relation to computer data” by the supreme court of British Columbia. He could face up to 10 years in prison as well a civil order barring him from using, creating, or selling certain types of software, including “any robot, bot, crawler, spider, blacklisting software or other software” that could be used to target the streaming platform.
These orders came after Apple allegedly used a service called ChatSurge to help spam Twitch streamers and chat with offensive messages. Gaming site Kotaku notes that the service openly admits that its express purpose is to “flood, destroy or simply demolish any Twitch.tv chatroom.” According to the court, the deluge was so overwhelming that it rendered certain sections of the site inoperable.
“Flooding overwhelms the chat service through the sheer volume of spam messages, ultimately disrupting the broadcaster’s stream and the viewers’ experience,” Twitch said in a court document. “The volume of spam messages on the attacked channel was enormous. The bots were posting an average of 34 spam messages per minute, while on some channels the rate was 600 messages per minute.”
Discerning the source of the attack, though, proved difficult. Employees at Twitch dedicated more than 300 hours to tracing the attacks, ultimately leading the investigation to the ChatSurge platform and Brandan Apple.
Apple has yet to enter an official plea (which still needs to be debated in further hearing), but his next appearance is scheduled for February.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome, this is something of a landmark case. As various streaming and social media platforms grow in size and reach, they’ve often been at the epicenter of all manner of attacks and controversies. It’s easy to forget that while the social internet is a given for many, it’s had relatively little regulation or litigation until now. And cases like these could shape the digital evolution of the coming years.