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Drag queens are being swatted while streaming on Twitch. They want it to stop.

Deere, the founder of the Stream Queens, said she is saddened by the "continued threats, harassment and invasions of privacy" directed at drag queens on Twitch.
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It was dark outside when a voice on a loud speaker called drag queen Elix's name and instructed her to walk out of her Las Vegas home.

As she walked out her front door, arms raised above her head, she began counting the guns pointed at her: One. Two. Three. Four.

On Nov. 9, Elix was in the middle of a livestream on the platform Twitch when she was met in her front yard by a fleet of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers surrounding her home.

Elix was told dispatch had received a call saying she had slit her brother's throat, hid him in the basement and now was going to take her own life.

After briefly speaking with police, it soon became apparent that the call had been a prank. Elix had been the victim of a swatting, the term used when a person calls police to make a bogus report that results in officers responding to a home. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department did not provide a comment to NBC News on the swatting incident.

"I'm shook. I'm gooped. I'm gagged that I — I wasn't scared. In my head, I'm like, 'My community is waiting for me,'" Elix told NBC News, referring to the livestream on Twitch that was still happening as officers placed her in handcuffs.

Elix, 37, a full-time Twitch streamer and partner with nearly 58,000 followers on the platform, is the latest victim in a spate of swatting incidents involving drag queens who stream themselves playing video games.

The string of incidents comes just months after creators held a boycott in early September, called “A Day Off Twitch,” to raise awareness of the threats marginalized groups say they face on the platform, like doxxing, bot attacks and hate raids.

As Twitch came under greater scrutiny, some new safety features were rolled out. Those included phone-verified chats that allowed targeted creators to have more control over who can participate in their communities.

But drag queens who spoke with NBC News said they still feel unsafe. Those interviewed for the story asked that NBC News only refer to them by their drag names out of fear that speaking out could incite further attacks.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m a person of color. I have a distinct name that’s Hispanic. This is going to be a different experience for me,’” Elix said of her encounter with officers when she was swatted.

Twitch calls harassment 'unacceptable'

Since September, six members of the streaming group Stream Queens, a collective of drag queens who stream mostly horror video games on Twitch, have been swatted, according to members of the group.

Swatting can be deadly. In 2017, Andrew Finch, of Wichita, Kansas, was killed during a swatting raid. Tyler Barriss, who called in the false report, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Drag queen and Twitch streamer Deere, the founder of the Stream Queens, said she is saddened by the “continued threats, harassment and invasions of privacy” of both the Stream Queens and the larger community of marginalized groups on Twitch.

Elix, a prominent Twitch streamer and drag queen, was swatted by police on Nov. 9 after a troll reported an erroneous crime to officials.
Elix, a prominent Twitch streamer and drag queen, was swatted by police on Nov. 9 after a troll reported an erroneous crime to officials.Courtesy Elix

“I hope that through these amazing people persevering in the face of hate, we can inspire people to still be strong and be themselves in spite of anyone trying to stop us or shame us for being genuine and honest,” she said.

Many interviewed by NBC News said they feel the attacks are a manifestation of homophobia and transphobia. They noted that marginalized groups on Twitch have, in recent months, asked for help protecting themselves as they've become more frequent targets of bad actors and trolls.

In a statement to NBC News, a Twitch spokesperson said "hate and harassment are unacceptable" on the platform and are "prohibited by our Community Guidelines."

The spokesperson added that the platform is constantly working to develop new policies and tools to keep its users safe.

"We are always gathering community feedback to inform this process, as well as expanding educational resources like our Safety Center and Creator Camp programming, to better ensure that Community members have access to vital information that keeps them safe," the Twitch spokesperson said. "Our work to improve safety is never-ending, and we will have more updates to share before the end of the year." 

No one to turn to

Those interviewed said they were able to utilize Twitch safety features, such as using the channel-banned term filters to weed out doxxing attempts.

Others also used Twitch's timed chat feature, which requires viewers to watch the stream for a certain duration before being able to chat. The tool gives channel moderators time to scan those watching for potential trolls, who they can then boot from the stream.

However, they still feel they have little recourse in getting justice. The bad actors behind their swatting incidents have not been identified, nor have they faced any charges, they said.

Some drag queens said they wished Twitch would do more to assist marginalized streamers who experience swatting, like providing resources and guidance for those who are likely to experience or have experienced swatting.

Others said their greatest frustration is with police officials, who seem, in their experience, to not understand swatting and the danger it presents.

In October, Mia E Z’Lay, 30, said she told local police in Connecticut she was worried she could be swatted after trolls began posting her address and phone number in the chat of her stream. E Z'Lay did not specify what police department she warned about the possibility she could be swatted.

"I called my local police department and told them what happened and ... I'm scared and I don't know what to do," she said. "Obviously, they didn't listen because the next day it got bad."

During a stream, while E Z'Lay was in full drag, she said police arrived at her home and told her to come outside.

E Z'Lay said at least 13 officers with guns drawn responded to her home, which she shares with a roommate, who was handcuffed by police during their search of the property.

As the police raided her home, E Z'Lay said her followers could hear the commotion on her still-live stream.

E Z'Lay said within Stream Queens, members have tried to circulate helpful information and warn one another of signs of possible swatters to look out for. But that advice can only go so far, the queens said.

"When this stuff happened to me, there's a safety channel we had, and I said, 'This is what happened to me. Y'all gotta watch yourselves,'" E Z'Lay said.

Pushed off Twitch

Some drag queens said they were forced to leave Twitch after their personal information was leaked among malicious corners of the internet.

Jupiter Velvet, 24, was a full-time streamer before she was swatted in early September.

Velvet, who is transgender, said police told her and her attorney there was nothing they could do about the swatter. After she left Twitch, Velvet said she turned to sex work and OnlyFans to subsidize her income.

"For a trans girl like me, my options are somewhat limited," Velvet, a Miami-based drag performer, said. "I really relied on Twitch, and now I have to figure something else out."

While swatting has forced some streamers off the platform, others, such as Elix and E Z’Lay, have continued streaming.

Elix said after the the swatting incident she went back inside her home and did the only thing she thought would prove to her trolls that they had failed to shake her. She sat down at her desk, and for four more hours she continued to stream on Twitch.

"I want people to know I'm not going to stop doing what I love," she said. "And I'm not going to stop inspiring people and being who I am."