If you watched even a minute of Neuro-sama streaming on Twitch you knew it was only a matter of time before the AI-controlled Vtuber got banned. The channel is currently offline for two weeks due to “hateful conduct,” though it’s not immediately clear what the offending incident was.
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“Okay so banned for 2 weeks obviously, not sure why something about hateful conduct,” Neuro-sama’s creator, a user who goes by Vedal, wrote in the Vtuber’s Discord earlier today. “Will try to appeal and find out more the good news for you guys is this gives me so much time to work on improvements and upgrades so hopefully by the time she’s unbanned she will be better than ever.”
Hundreds of fans responded beneath the message with crying emoji. On Twitter, the account Out of context Neuro called on Twitch to “free my girl.”
Neuro-sama started making waves in the video game streaming space back in December when she bantered with viewers in the Twitch chat while playing the rhythm game Osu! Unlike other Vtubers which are only people posing as anime avatars, Neuro-sama was the real deal, trouncing opponents in online matches while commenting on everything from Pewdiepie to League of Legends. More recently she’s been playing Minecraft and taking singing lessons.
The potential pitfalls of an AI built on globs of internet text and viewer prompts immediately became apparent, however. Early on one user asked Neuro-sama about the Holocaust. “I’m not sure if I believe it,” she responded.
Vedal told Kotaku last week he had immediately worked to improve the Twitch channel’s chat filters and Neuro-sama’s responses after that in order to avoid similar mishaps in the future. It’s a fine line between keeping her interesting and making her un-cancelable though. A big reason some viewers tune into her streams is clearly to watch her go off script, including rants about how she smells bad or her favorite kind of weed. No doubt getting banned will only increase her street cred and hype by the time she returns.
Twitch and Vedal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When 29-year-old Kaitlyn Siragusa—Twitch streamer Amouranth—said that if it weren’t for her allegedly abusive husband’s threats, she wouldn’t post as much NSFW content, some self-decided experts online expressed skepticism instead of compassion. They sustained their bad attitudes through Siragusa’s October announcement that she was filing for divorce, and continue to scrutinize her output for still being smutty. But in a recent Twitter thread, Siragusa says that an empire, even one covered in thorns like hers, needs time to change.
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“The MOST ignorant take I run into is when people say ‘LOL you didn’t change your content— you liar,” she said in her thread. But “it would be selfish and irresponsible to do a 180 at a moment notice.”
Siragusa explained that she directly employs nearly 20 people, and then hires another nine for editing and other services. About 15 of those employees were dedicated wholly to “spicy adjacent content,” she said, and have since been reassigned either to Siragusa’s creator management company Real Work or upcoming special projects. “I gave 60 days notice to my ‘lewd’ content staff letting them know they could find other employment but that their positions would be locked in for two months,” she said in the thread. Kotaku reached out to Siragusa for comment.
“Non-content creators in the peanut gallery think I’m supposed to just lay off everyone and instantly change my content,” she said on Twitter. But “doing all this in a deliberately measured way is the compassionate approach. I ultimately was able to find new positions for EVERY SINGLE STAFF MEMBER.”
I won’t step too deep in the mud about why pressuring Siragusa after disclosing domestic abuse sucks and is not grounded in reality, but be assured that doubting and sneering at victims sucks really hard and no one likes when you do it.
And anyway, a month after announcing her divorce, Siragusa shared statistics that revealed her content was changing. Hot tub streams used to take about 50 percent of her time on Twitch, she reported, but at the end of November 2022, that percentage dropped down to 10 percent of her broadcast time. At the time, she said she had been playing more Overwatch 2 than performing the lewd content she claimed her ex had been pressuring her to do prior to their split, something that otherwise would have “never happened.”
“At this point Anyone who says I’m not in control is down a parasocial rabbit hole,” Siragusa said in her recent thread. I do what I want now, and although many seem to relish in misconstruing my original words—it’s always been about having personal agency. […] Casting doubt about my autonomy is their new cope.”
We’re talking about the mega-popular Twitch streamer Hasan “Hasanabi” Piker again. However, instead of a scandal pertaining to his actions on the Amazon-owned streaming platform or something related to how rich the political commentator is, Hasanabi is making headlines for getting banned on TikTok for “hateful behavior” after his editor reposted a reaction clip from Hasanabi’s December 14 livestream on Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter.
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Hasanabi is one of Twitch’s most popular broadcasters, garnering tens of thousands of viewers whenever he goes live on the Amazon-owned livestreaming platform. A left-leaning progressive socialist, Hasanabi has covered an innumerable amount of political events from the 2020 election to the January 6 insurrection and beyond. If there’s something going down in the world of politics, chances are Hasanabi’s reacting to it. This tends to get him in trouble, though, which is exactly what happened on TikTok.
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As his editor Ostonox noted on Twitter, Hasanabi was banned on TikTok for “hate speech.” Ostonox explained that the clip, a small segment from Hasanabi’s December 14 livestream where he reacts to a video by The Cut, was about “how ‘Black Lives Matter’ means we need to end the systemic discrimination and police violence against Black people in the United States.” The worst part of this ban is it happened on Martin Luther King Jr. day. Plus, his editor got hit with a ban as well.
According to TikTok’s community guidelines, hate speech and behavior are defined as “content that attacks, threatens, incites violence against, or otherwise dehumanizes an individual or a group.” The platform also delves into hateful ideology, explaining that it is rhetoric that “demonstrates clear hostility toward people because of their protected attributes” such as age, disability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sex, and the like. Any content fitting these criteria, including those “promoting or justifying violence” and “claim[ing] supremacy over a group of people,” will be removed from the platform and could possibly result in a permanent ban on TikTok.
“Like, there you go,” Hasanabi said in the above clip. “That’s a great way to look at the extremes on both sides. One side is saying ‘Black lives matter and Black lives are a part of all lives, so all lives clearly don’t matter until Black lives matter because Black lives currently don’t matter.’ The other side is saying ‘Nah, fuck that, all lives matter actually. Black lives matter, too, you’re just fucking wrong for bringing that up.’ The extreme in that situation is one side saying, correctly, that Black people are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system and sometimes even killed as a consequence of that disproportionate targeting and systemic racism. The other side is denying that reality. On the extreme side on the other side, they’re also taking matters in their own fucking hands. So, how can you look at that situation and go, ‘Huh, both sides have some ideas here’?”
Ostonox told Kotaku that Hasanabi’s been “banned a couple times” on TikTok in the past because the short-form video platform is “very quick to act when a video is reported.” He explained that when something gets reported, he and Hasanabi would submit an appeal, which would then get a “human reviewer” that would reverse the ban because “nothing violated any community guidelines.” However, it appears Hasanabi has committed multiple infringements and got the boot.
“Our latest video [was posted on January 16] and started doing really well because it satirized the current TikTok trend of pages that pair multiple colorful, engaging videos together to increase watch time,” Ostonox said. “I’m not sure which part constitutes ‘hateful behavior’ as the clip used is of him explaining why ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a phrase meant to highlight the systemic oppression of Black people in the US.”
In a livestream on the same day, Hasanabi reacted to the TikTok ban, shaking his head in utter disbelief and saying he’s “so fucking mad” about it.
“Anytime a TikTok of mine goes viral, it gets automatically mass reported and I get fucking permabanned,” Hasanabi said. “Every single time, dude. How? How? I mean, it’s insane. It’s insane, dude, it’s fucking insane. Every single time. Like, without fail. I hate it so much.”
Kotaku reached out to Hasanabi and TikTok for comment.
Black folks, as is evidenced just about everywhere, are disproportionately affected by a number of oppressive structures in the United States, not just the criminal justice system. To assume that Black Lives Matter is some dog whistle for divisive politics is misguided at best. We just want to exist in the world and have the same opportunities as everyone else. So, Hasanabi is right here: All lives don’t matter until Black lives matter, too. It’s that simple.
Hasanabi has been in hot water for a number of reasons in the past. Folks have gotten mad at him for buying a house, copping a Porche, even for saying the word “cracker” (which Wheat Thins exonerated him of with “The Pass”). Hell, Hasanabi could probably breathe and people would find a reason to get upset with the left-leaning progressive socialist. This is just the latest example in a long string of controversies attached to Hasanabi’s belt.
Twitch streamer Hasan “Hasanabi” Piker’s TikTok has been unbanned not long after the news started making headlines online. Hasanabi’s editor Ostonox posted about this latest development on Twitter, saying some components, such as his username (not his account handle), are completely different now.
Scrubbing through TikTok, Kotaku was able to verify that while Hasanabi’s username is user75276634197 at the time of writing, he’s back on the platform again—replete with the checkmark, a profile picture of him holding a dog, a link to his Twitch channel, and the video that got his account banned in the first place. His editor Ostonox, however, remains banned from TikTok for now.
Update 01/18/23 10:15 a.m. ET: Added info on Hasanabi’s TikTok getting unbanned while his editor Ostonox remains banned on the platform. Also, we’ve changed instances of “permaban” to “ban” to reflect the temporary status.
When you tune into Twitch streamer Perrikaryal’s channel, you might see her playing FromSoftware’s role-playing game epic Elden Ring with fourteen, unfamiliar black sensors stuck to her scalp. It’s her—as she said during an informational stream earlier today—“just for fun” electroencephalogram (EEG) device, something researchers use to record the brain’s electrical activity, which she’s repurposed to let her play Elden Ring hands-free.
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“Okay what and how,” publisher Bandai Namco responded to a clip of Perri (whose name seems to refer to the perikaryon, the cell body of a neuron) describing how she linked brain activity to key binds to help her play the game, shared by esports reporter Jake Lucky on Twitter.
Cue the disbelief (“I’ve gotten a lot of stuff online being like, […] ‘are you for real?’” Perri says in that Twitter clip) and cries of Ex Machina.
It does look incredible—in the clip, you see Perri simply say “attack” to her screen like a gamer girl Matilda and then, after a short delay, her Elden Ring character responds by casting Rock Sling at an irritated boss. But I spent my undergrad fixing eye-tracking devices to my friends’ heads while they helped me fill my lab requirements, and I know that, although brain technology can look complicated, some of it was still easy enough for me as a 19-year-old. So I reached out to my former classmate, University of Michigan cognitive neuroscience PhD candidate Cody Cao, for his thoughts.
“EEG has really good temporal resolution,” he said, “meaning that the collected neural response to gaming stimuli is down to milliseconds. If the neural responses corresponding to available actions present vastly different neural patterns, algorithms can decode or differentiate which is which after training. Then, you play the game with EEG.”
But playing a game with your brain—something Elon Musk tried to shock the public with in 2021, when his brain-computer interface company Neuralink released a video of a monkey playing Pong using its technology—won’t give you an advantage.
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“Decoding is still janky,” Cao told me, “60 percent to 70 percent accuracy is considered pretty good,” compared to 90 to 100 percent accuracy in performing an action manually (which also requires your brain!).
“It takes algorithms a lot of training to get to an acceptable performance. They likely need to experience a lot of different examples of the same thing (like Perri saying ‘attack’ before attacking) to be able to account for a vast majority of attacks,” Cao continued. “It’s like FaceID on your iPhone—it gets better with the more examples it sees.”
Perri also emphasized in her stream today that she isn’t necessarily innovating, but bringing the possibilities of EEG usage to the general public’s attention.
“It’s not that crazy, it’s really easy to do. And it’s been done since 1988,” she said about gaming with her brain. “It’s not necessarily anything new that I’m doing, I’m just not sure that it’s very well known.” But now you know, and maybe you’ll figure out how to mind control me a grilled cheese that doesn’t hurt my stomach next.
Nvidia’s come up with new AI-powered tech that swaps out your real eyes for digital ones that will never stop looking at your webcam. It’s very creepy, and one more sign of how unnatural you have to act online to become a popular streamer in 2023.
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That’s just how it is: To succeed in the world of livestreaming, you need to be “on” all the time, always “engaged,” and never taking too many breaks for fear of shrinking your potentially fickle audience. It can quickly lead to burnout. Time and time again we’ve seen big, medium, and small streamers lose their passion for playing games online, leading to extended breaks, panic attacks, and more. But what if an AI-powered tool could help you fake some of that oh-so-important engagement? Enter Nvidia’s latest update to its Broadcast software.
This suite of tools is meant to help you look and sound better as you stream, with features like background removal and keyboard noise suppression. As of this new version you can, with the push of a button, now apply fake, AI-powered eyeballs to your real human face. And these new eyes will stare directly at the camera at all times, letting you never stop “engaging” with your audience even as you read your chat or look around at other things in your room. It looks wild, and very creepy!
Some have suggested that this tech could help people with autism who struggle to keep eye contact during meetings and livestreams. And while I respect that use case, I do question if this is the path we want to go down. I don’t think constant eye contact—especially creepy, direct staring eye contact like this—is something we all need or should want. I certainly don’t think pasting creepy AI eyes on everyone is a good thing. And as pointed out by one tweet, this kind of static, dead stare is not how people actually look when talking to large groups. Looking away or toward other people and cameras is natural, and can be useful and even important.
Online reactions to this new tech have included people freaking out over how creepy and weird it looks and pointing out how unnatural it feels. Even so, you can also find a lot more positive responses to the above tweet and other online examples of this strange new AI gizmo: people excited about how it will help their YouTube videos or livestreams on Twitch, and happy they can read chat or look away from the stream, while their audience is tricked into thinking they are still “engaged” with them. To me that just seems like a really unhealthy (and unsustainable) mindset that will eventually lead to more burnout that AI-powered tech can’t fix, treat, or prevent.
Twitch isn’t just a place where artificial intelligence festers and drama proliferates. It’s also a useful organizational platform for raising awareness around and funds for various global causes, which is exactly what a handful of big-name streamers, like Ben “CohhCarnage” Cassell and Hasan “Hasanabi” Piker, are using it for in the wake of the calamitous earthquakes that have devastated Syria and Turkey in recent days.
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The southwest Asian countries, Syria and Turkey, were decimated by two powerful earthquakes earlier this week, killing upwards of 7,000 people and displacing more than 150,000 others. As of this publication, survivors are still being pulled out from the rubble, including a newborn baby who still had their umbilical cord attached. Things are looking dire for Syrian and Turkish people at this moment.
In response to the destruction impacting both countries, popular Twitch and YouTube streamers, from Hasanabi to IShowSpeed to Ludwig and more, are raising funds to aid in the humanitarian crisis.
The fundraiser, which was started by Hasanabi and will benefit charities such as the nonprofit organization AKUT and Turkish rock star Haluk Levent’s organization Ahbap, has already brought in over $700,000. Scrubbing through the list of top donors to the effort reveals who else has joined the effort and donated money. This includes content creators like Seán “Jacksepticeye” McLoughlin ($10,000), Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter (also $10,000), Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren ($5,000), CohhCarnage (also $5,000), Darren “IShowSpeed” Watkins Jr. ($2,000), and many more. Even notorious gambling streamer Tyler “Trainwreck” Niknam pledged to gift $150,000 in bitcoin to “legitimate humanitarian charities” that take the cryptocurrency. And, of course, Hasanabi donated $25,000 of his own money to the cause.
Kotaku reached out to CohhCarnage, Hasanabi, IShowSpeed, and Trainwreck for comment but did not get a reply in time for publication.
This is amazing to see. Too often, Twitch coverage focuses on the negativity of the platform. Sure, there’s always something absurd and strange happening on Amazon’s livestreaming service, like the AI Seinfeld show that was recently banned, but it’s beautiful to witness some of the biggest stars—and those who have since left the platform for greener pastures on YouTube—coming together to help those that need it. If you can donate, please consider lending a helping hand.
It’s 2023, and FPS gaming hasn’t really improved for anyone who sounds like a woman over voice chat. No matter how skilled they are, it seems inevitable that some fuckwad is going to tell the player to make a sandwich. One female Call of Duty streamer decided to respond to shitty opponents by stepping away from her game to make an actual sandwich.
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Twitch streamer Stephanie Evans keeps beating men in CoD, but that doesn’t earn her any respect with the chuds who keep telling her to get in the kitchen—a misogynistic insult that seems ubiquitous to online gaming. Instead of letting it slide off her back, she would sometimes get up from her game, go to her kitchen, and make a packed lunch. Kotaku asked Evans over email if the sandwich meta would cost her any wins. She said that her antics cost her “a round or two,” but that it only further motivated her to win. Most comments came after she had already won.
“I tried to speed run making sandwiches, which took me a minute and [a half] to about two minutes. I made a full turkey [or] ham and cheese sandwich [and] packed it in a sandwich Ziploc. Then I put a side of chips and 2 water bottles combined in a bigger Ziploc. I put everything away in the fridge.” She told Kotaku that she made full lunches so that she could later donate the food packs to the local homeless.
Although she receives these insults in what she estimates are 7 out of 10 matches, Evans wrote that the sandwich jokes are actually some of the tamer things that women experience in FPS gaming. Most of the negative responses she gets are sexual assault and death threats.
“[The sandwich meta] developed into raising awareness as to what is freely said and thrown around by some of these people on video games. In the real world, this should have some sort of consequence,” she wrote. “I am also trying to bring a voice to people who are terrified to play FPS due to the toxic nature of these multiplayer games.”
Evans has been making sandwiches since she started playing the first Modern Warfare, but her “fragile men” content is more recent. Starting last November, she made a series of TikToks based on how men respond to her saying “nice try,” “calm down,” or “good job” over voice chat. Some told her to get back to the kitchen. Others told her to “shut up, bitch.” None of the clips I watched included death threats, but that definitely doesn’t mean they don’t happen. The systematic rot goes deep. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy this clip of Evans telling her opponent to “make me a house.”
A month after Twitch streamer Brandon “Atrioc” Ewing accidentally revealed that he was watching sexually explicit deepfakes of his fellow streamers while on stream, Twitch has issued a lengthy statement regarding its stance on the controversy and what the company is calling “synthetic non-consensual exploitative images” or NCEI in general.
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The lengthy community update, titled “Addressing Explicit Deepfake Content,” was shared today, March 7 alongside the announcement that Twitch is hosting a Creator Camp on March 14 to “help protect women streamers.” The update references the Atrioc incident, which directly affected several prominent streamers like Pokimane, Sweet Anita, and QTCinderella, who were victims of the deepfake content in question.
“In January, a brief ‘deepfake porn’ incident was live streamed on Twitch,” the post reads. “This moment caused immense distress to those whose images were used without their consent, and set off a wave of conversations about the dangers that AI-generated explicit imagery can pose.”
The post goes on to state that “deepfake porn isn’t a problem on Twitch, but it’s a terrible issue that some streamers (almost exclusively women) may face on the internet at large.” And even though this kind of content isn’t prominent on Twitch (aside from Atrioc briefly revealing a site that contained deepfakes of popular streamers), the company states that it wants “to help streamers protect themselves or respond quickly to this kind of situation anywhere it arises.”
“In the weeks since the event, we’ve been listening to the community, talking with streamers, and consulting with experts in the field about how to keep streamers protected—on and off our service.”
Twitch also states that, while “deepfake porn” is the commonly used term, their consultation with “experts” suggests that the term synthetic NCEI is more appropriate, as “porn (while prohibited on Twitch) should be consensual and should feature people who know they’re taking part in activities that others are going to see. That’s not what’s happening here…”
In response to the scandal, Twitch is updating two of its policies that will be implemented in updates over the next month:
1. We’re updating our Adult Sexual Violence and Exploitation policy to make it more clear that intentionally promoting, creating, or sharing synthetic NCEI can result in an indefinite suspension on the first offense.
2. We’re updating our Adult Nudity policy to include synthetic NCEI. Even if that NCEI is shown only briefly, or, for example, shown to express your outrage or disapproval of the content, it will be removed and will result in an enforcement.
The company states that it’s working with law professor and vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative Daniel Keats Citron along with employees of the UK Revenge Porn Helpline to “make sure we’re addressing this topic from multiple, valuable perspectives.”
Finally, the statement announces a Creator Camp led by Revenge Porn helpline manager and Twitch streamer Zara Ward taking place on March 14 before listing a few resources we’ve linked above.
While it’s great to see Twitch making a big, bold statement about the scandal, it’s certainly a bit frustrating that it comes over a month after the inciting incident took place. Did the company want to wait until Women’s History Month kicked off before it started loudly supporting its women-identifying creators or…?
Kotaku has reached out to Twitch for comment and will update the story accordingly.
Grace Van Dien is a streamer and an actress. You probably know her best as Chrissy Cunningham on Stranger Things, but she’s also starred in movies like What Comes Around and V For Vengeance. Two days ago, she told her Twitch viewers that she “turned down acting projects and decided to stream more” because she has experienced sexual harassment in the film industry.
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While any videos and clips of the aforementioned stream has been made “unavailable” on her Twitch account, you can watch a clip of her stream here.
“The fact of the matter is, the last few projects I worked on…I didn’t have the best experiences with some of the people I had to work for,” she said. “With streaming, I get to choose who I hang out with, who I talk to.”
As longtime Kotaku readers know, Twitch can still be a dangerous platform for female streamers. Women are vulnerable to harassment, stalking, and doxxing. But content creators on the video platform aren’t required to have a boss. While speaking about her decision to step away from acting projects, Van Dien contrasted her relatively positive streaming experiences with having an unscrupulous manager on set.
“One of the last movies I did, one of the producers asked me to…he hired a girl who he was sleeping with and had her ask me to have a threesome with them,” she said. “So that’s my boss. And I didn’t. I cried, and I was so upset.” Van Dien didn’t specify which movie it was, but she has recently starred in The Fix, Aaah! Roach!, What Comes Around, and V For Vengeance.
Kotaku reached out to Van Dien’s agency, but could not get a comment by the time of publication.
Yesterday, Van Dien tweeted that her “work priorities are changing” and that she was “waiting for the right project” and “the right people to work with.” She’s starred in a Netflix production that’s been viewed over a billion hours. I’d say that she has options.
Fortnite Twitch streamer and hugely popular gaming TikToker Chica seemed to get some surprising news yesterday—Twitch removed one of her emotes, a cartoon chick with big, wet eyes and its tongue sticking out, for “inciting abuse.”
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“Based on a review of its content, we have removed your emote ‘chicaL’ from Twitch,” the notice Chica received said. “Reason: Disallowed content – Targeted insults, bullying, and threatening or inciting abuse.”
“???” is all Chica had to say in response when she posted a screenshot of the notice on Twitter, also adding a link to her channel on alternative gaming streaming service Kick. She did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment in time for publication.
It’s true that chicaL isn’t an entirely innocent emote. The fluffy-haired chick seems to be frowning a bit as it holds one of its puffy wings to its forehead in an L-shape, which might be an offensive act to some eighth graders, who are indeed allowed to use Twitch under its 13-and-up policy. It seems like a stretch, though, and most of Chica’s fans and fellow streamers were confused.
“Finally, I felt so insulted when people would put that emote in my chat!” Fortnite streamer Scoped said sarcastically.
“That’s actually so ridiculous,” commented variety streamer LuluLuvely.
Other streamers suggested that, despite Twitch’s cryptic message, chicaL wasn’t removed for being a tyrant, but for representing the single letter “L.”
“I think they’re removing any emotes with single letters because people would use them to write bad stuff,” Call of Duty streamer Natarsha said. “I had my F emote removed too.”
“They took mine too :(” streamer and YouTuber dakotaz said about his similar “wolfL” emote.
“They took my W, L, F,” confirmed virtual streamer GirlyBella.
Twitch did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment, but its existing emote guidelines prevent creators from releasing “emotes containing a single letter with a graphic, or multiple single letter emotes that combine to make a word.” The mystery, then, is why chicaL was specifically ousted for “bullying,” etc., and not being a single letter. The curse of being too cute, perhaps.