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Musician deadmau5 deletes Twitch channel after being suspended for homophobic slur

Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Howard Hughes Corporation

Musician Joel Zimmerman (otherwise known as deadmau5) deleted his Twitch live-streaming account yesterday after being suspended for homophobic slurs. In a now-deleted Reddit post, Zimmerman said his comments had been “generally toxic as fuck,” but that they were not intended as hate speech. “I’m not going to stand for Twitch’s double standard when it comes to censoring and suspending me for harmless shit,” he said. “While we’ve had some fun partnerships here and there, and they were a great company to work with... I’m gonna have to cut this one short.”

As Kotaku explains, Twitch apparently suspended Zimmerman for an outburst while he was streaming PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG) earlier this week. In a clip publicized by the blog EDM.com, he referred to another player as a “fucking cock-sucking stream sniper fag,” referring to the practice of watching a player’s live stream to find their location in battle royale games like PUBG.

Zimmerman then deleted his Twitch account and defended his words in a Reddit post. That post has since been removed, and a spokesperson for Zimmerman didn’t immediately clarify whether it still represents his position.

“While it was intended to insult a fucking asshat who was being a fucking asshat... it wasn’t ‘directed at an entire group of people who have a sexual orientation that differs from my own,’” Zimmerman said in that post. He denied that he was “blaming” Twitch, but that “I just don’t agree with with [sic] their policy on who gets to decide what’s freedom of expression and what’s blatant extreme right-wing crazy shit that’s actually harmful.”

Zimmerman apologized last year for insulting a Twitter user with homophobic and transphobic comments. This time around, he said he wouldn’t be apologizing, because viewers “in the heat of the moment” would have understood “the purpose of the statement.”

The Twitch community guidelines prohibit language that denigrates people based on sexual orientation, among other categories. Twitch is supposed to examine the “intent and context” of each statement, potentially issuing an indefinite suspension, although the details of Zimmerman’s ban aren’t clear. Twitch didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is far from the first controversy over hateful language in video game streaming. Arguably the best-known incident happened in 2017, when Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg drew criticism for using a racial slur in a YouTube video, also while playing PUBG. In Kjellberg’s case, critics connected it to a larger pattern of shock jokes involving white supremacy.

Twitch adopted its zero-tolerance hateful conduct rules last year, responding to complaints that it didn’t clearly define or censure bigoted abuse on the platform. However, as Zimmerman’s reference to “double standards” shows, that hasn’t settled arguments over how harshly offenders ought to be punished. And this incident potentially marks the end of a fairly long relationship between Twitch and Zimmerman — who appeared at the very first TwitchCon festival back in 2015.

Update February 14th: Zimmerman later wrote an apology for his earlier post. “What I said was incredibly stupid, and I don’t actually hold those beliefs, at all. I let some gamer get the best of me, and in that moment I completely lost control. And me lashing back with some knee-jerk post about how it may have seemed unjustified... was completely unfair to Twitch and its viewers,” he wrote. “I would love nothing more than to finally be at peace with myself and be the best human being I can be, trust me. Being ‘Mr. I don’t give a fuck’ is not someone I ever aspired to be.”

Zimmerman doesn’t appear to be returning to Twitch for the moment, but that no longer appears to be a protest against censorship. For now, he says, he’s “going to focus on cubes and music.”