Twitch is Cracking Down on Simp Emotes Over Harassment Fears

By Nathan Grayson on at

“Simp” is, to put it lightly, a divisive term. On Twitch, TikTok and Twitter, people mostly use it to express hyper-exaggerated thirst, often to get laughs out of friends or communities. But the word also has more negative connotations, and even though it’s undeniably become part of the broader Twitch lexicon, Twitch itself doesn’t seem too fond of it. Recently, it’s been deleting emotes that contain any mention of the word.

In fact, Twitch has been on a simp emote deleting spree going as far back as late February. Kotaku has discovered that, in the past two weeks alone, Twitch has rejected or deleted at least 15 different streamers’ variations on the form – and that’s just streamers who’ve publicly spoken out about the untimely demises of their emotes. Some are smaller streamers with just a few thousand followers. Others are bigger. For example, earlier this week, Federico “Fedmyster” Gaytan, a popular streamer who’s part of the same OfflineTV content creator group as Twitch megastar Imane “Pokimane” Anys, announced on stream that his “FedSimp” emote had been removed by Twitch “for targeted harassment and bullying”.

Simp emotes are generally innocuous, depicting either the streamer or a relevant character holding up a sign with “simp” written on it, or, in some cases, just the word itself in reference to a character (“Simp 4 Loba” in reference to Apex Legends hero Loba, for example), or even the word on its own. In Gaytan’s case, it was a picture of Gaytan pointing accusingly with the word “Simp” printed on his head.

Twitch partners who are in good standing with the company can often submit new emotes without needing manual approval, but some simp emotes have been rejected at the door. Most of these rejections have been accompanied by the same email, which reads “Harassment: Disallowed content – Targeted insults, bullying, and threatening or inciting abuse” and links to Twitch’s emote guidelines. Kotaku asked Twitch for more details on why simp emotes in particular are now dumpster fodder, but a Twitch spokesperson merely said that “Our community guidelines prohibit harassment, and as a part of this, we deny emotes that are designed to abuse or demean others, or can be misused for such behaviour.”

Many streamers take issue with that characterisation of their emotes, but that’s where things get thorny. The term “simp” has a long and pernicious history, originating in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in the ‘90s, only to get appropriated in the 2000s by online misogynists who use it to refer to men who submit themselves to women to gain their attention, usually in pursuit of sex. More recently, it’s filtered up into the meme culture of sites like TikTok and Twitch, becoming a regular part of those platforms’ vernaculars and serving as an openly thirsty version of stanning – a.k.a. professing undying loyalty to a person or thing. It is difficult to find breaks in the chain of the word’s linguistic lineage. Some people use the word pridefully, calling themselves simps for particular people that they legitimately, unironically adore. Others joke about it, usually in relation to their relative horniness on main. Others (who are often men) take it gravely seriously, shouting from the rooftops that nobody should ever simp for a woman, because it’s a sign that you don’t deserve your man card or whatever.

Streamers whose emotes have been rejected or removed have vehemently protested, saying they meant no harm – and certainly not to draw on the latter meaning of “simp”.

“My community never used it with ill intent,” said Gaytan, whose community often jokes about how he’s a simp, during his stream. “It was mostly banter and, in some cases, a compliment. Really unfortunate... One of my favourite emotes.”

“It’s bizarre to me that people are demonizing men treating women well. It’s the new ‘beta’ in some cases. In others, it’s just someone who shows admiration for another.”

“The emote was mainly just a joke within my community,” another streamer, Selmacashmoney, told Kotaku in a Twitter DM. “We always joke about being simps or others simping.” She went on to acknowledge that the word has many meanings, including “extreme cases” of people legitimately obsessing over women, which she finds “quite creepy rather than empowering.” But that was not how she intended for her emote to be used.

A streamer named Joey Kaotyk said that his emote was even more in-joke-y, referencing his relationship with his fiance. “Honestly, I’m a simp [for] my own fiance, so it’s sort of an inside joke within my community and people who also watch her stream,” he said in an email to Kotaku. “I wasn’t sure why [the emote] was removed. It was a cute emote with no hate intended.”

Twitch has not yet succeeded in removing all simping-related emotes, however. Many streamers who’ve had their emotes removed or rejected complain that everybody else has one, which has led to a familiar refrain: Twitch is inconsistently applying its rules again, just like with its dress code policy, body painting, breastfeeding, hateful speech and heaps of other issues besides. However, it also seems like Twitch’s tangle of disparate systems has created a whack-a-mole situation for moderators. For example, in one case I came across, a streamer claimed they were able to get their simp emote through the review process simply by not including “simp” in its name. Then there’s the fact that streamers who are in good standing don’t have to go through the review process at all. Wraithyn is one such streamer. His simp emote is a picture of a fish with the word “simp” beneath it, and so far, it remains part of his channel.

“I had no idea they were removing them,” he told Kotaku in a Twitter DM. “It seemed harmless. Ours is a bit of an inside joke – that’s why it’s a picture of a catfish.” He noted that a viewer designed the emote and explained it to him by saying, “I simp for Wraithyn and ONLY WRAITHYN!” Wraithyn, then, considers it a “meme of affection”. He said it’s only been available on his channel for a couple of days so far, and his viewers have mostly been using it to shout out donations.

But, as a result of the word’s many uses, he’s not sure how long his emote will be allowed to stick around. “It’s bizarre to me that people are demonising men treating women well,” he said. “It’s the new ‘beta’ in some cases. In others, it’s just someone who shows admiration for another.”

At this point, that seems to be the issue: it’s not necessarily what streamers and their audiences are doing with simp emotes, but what they (or other, more malicious types) could do.

“I think they just know the term can be used as a derogatory term for those who support women and female streamers,” a streamer named J. Cyrus, whose simp emote was removed by Twitch after a viewer reported it, told Kotaku in a Twitter DM. “So they probably wanna cut down on people calling others simps for donating.”

This approach makes sense given the number of Twitch emotes that have, over time, become associated with abuse and harassment, often along the lines of race and gender. Better to nip potential problems in the bud before they can truly take root.

Selmacashmoney, however, thinks that Twitch has bigger problems on its hands than simp emotes.

“I could definitely see how the simp emote could be used for bullying,” she said. “However, I also think there are many other emotes that could be used for bullying and are used in a negative context, yet they’re still allowed.”

That seems to be the general consensus among streamers I spoke to: in isolation, it makes sense that Twitch would aim its laser-sighted banhammer at simp emotes, but in the grander scheme of things, they’re kind of a weird target.

“I think simp emotes are very low-tier for bullying,” said Selmacashmoney, “but I do understand the need for caution.”

Featured image: Fedmyster