Live-streaming platform Kick launched just under a year ago, promising to be a platform made for creators, by creators. Its promises were enticing: offering the friendliest revenue split in the industry, only taking five percent of subscription revenue earned on the platform (Twitch takes 30 percent for “Partners,” 50 percent for other streamers), and recently launching a Creator Program where up-and-coming creators could earn a salary just for streaming.
All of that has been overshadowed by the constant controversies, some of them built into the foundation of the site. Eddie Craven, who co-founded the crypto gambling site Stake, also co-founded Kick, and the two sites are seemingly intertwined.
Outside of gambling, Kick is known for having a lax content moderation policy and allowing creators banned on other platforms to stay on its site. Though it does have Community Guidelines, it’s unclear how deeply it’s enforced. Chat rooms and usernames are consistently full of slurs and epithets, and some have raised suspicions about bots running rampant. Adin Ross, one of the platform’s most notorious and successful streamers, has watched porn on stream, encouraged a viewer to throw urine on a family member, and as of last week nearly started a global catastrophe by saying he was going to stream with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un (thankfully, it turned out to be a fake).
But in Kick’s latest controversy this week, streamers Paul “Ice Poseidon” Denino and Sam Pepper live-streamed an uncomfortable (at times seemingly dangerous and nonconsensual) interaction between one of their fans and an alleged sex worker in Brisbane, Australia. All the while, Kick’s CEO Eddie Craven sent multiple laughing emojis in the live stream chat, doing nothing to stop the stream.
The move from the CEO, as well as the footage still being left up on the platform as of today, has left some Kick streamers feeling that the money isn’t worth the drama.
The Latest Incident
Denino is one of the most infamous live streamers to ever hold a camera, pioneering edgy IRL content since 2017. Some of his career highlights include: getting banned from Twitch after getting swatted on a plane, claiming he was arrested after dancing on his girlfriend in Thailand, and alleging he had his home raided by the FBI.
Pepper, on the other hand, was once a “Big Brother” contestant who broke out as a YouTube prankster — in 2015 he gained worldwide infamy by posting a fake prank video of a murder gone wrong. He continued making content over the next half-decade, again entering the news cycle in 2021 for participating in the controversial “Save the Kids” crypto token, which dramatically rose then tanked in value.
Pepper and Denino have been live-streaming together for many years but made the jump to Kick in May. The pair have spent the last couple of weeks traveling across Australia together. On September 21 while in Brisbane, Queensland, they met up with a fan who calls himself “Robot Andy” on stream. Fans in the live chat suggested it might be “funny” to hire a sex worker for him. (Hiring a sex worker was made legal earlier in Queensland this year “if provided in licensed brothels or by sole operator sex workers,” according to the Prostitution Licensing Authority.)
After multiple live-streamed calls to sex worker services, one alleged sex worker (who is unnamed in the video) agreed to come. In the stream recording, which is still available online, she is asked by “Robot Andy” if “it’s okay to film” and if “it doesn’t matter” what he does “with the video.” She agrees in the moment. In a later stream, when the alleged sex worker entered the room, Andy asked if “it’s alright filming” and pointed to the camera saying “that’s on Livestream” in a slightly muffled voice. However, it’s unclear from her reaction later on if she understood that it was actually being live-streamed.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable kissing, random noises playing from text-to-speech donations, and chat spamming emotes, the woman said she received a text message letting her know she was being “set up” (with the two streamers watching next door), and tried to leave. “This is really creepy,” she said. In a frightening moment, Andy tried to block the door demanding his “money back.” She managed to make her way out through the door.
Denino and Pepper come into the stream after the sex worker leaves and condemn Andy for trying to block the door. According to Denino in an interview, the sex worker was supposed to do “nothing” on stream and Robot Andy “was supposed to lead for funny interactions.” Denino provided Passionfruit with a number he alleges was hers, but the number did not respond to our request for comment. The Queensland Police Service did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the situation over email.
While all of this is going on, Kick CEO Craven is watching, writing multiple laughing emotes in chat on his own personal Kick account. Over Denino’s lifetime streaming on Kick, Craven has donated over 1,500 subscribers to his channel, according to KickVODs. Kick’s Community Guidelines say streamers can’t “invade (the) privacy of private places, communications, or persons” or “facilitate, encourage, offer, or solicit sexual conduct,” but that didn’t seem to matter to its CEO.
Kick in the Butt
The stream stayed isolated in Ice Poseidon’s community for a few days until it got posted to Twitter. Multiple users reshared clips of the incident, noting how scary the footage was. The story traveled and disturbed many Kick streamers, who felt that the platform, and the CEO, were encouraging problematic content.
Esports creator Stallion wrote, “I’m so fucking disappointed in what I’ve seen. Why am I seeing an owner of Kick laughing at what’s happening here?” Gamer Ariel Jade wrote, “If he’s not banned within the next 12 hours, I’m out.” Streamers on other platforms chimed in as well. Streamer Sailor Peach wrote, “If you in any way, shape or form, still believe Kick is somewhere to foster a community, you are part of the problem.”
Just one day after the story went viral, Kick released a statement of their own that didn’t directly address any of the issues, writing, “Community & public safety cannot be compromised in the process of making ‘content’” and, “We’ll keep you updated on upcoming changes to community guidelines and subsequent enforcement measures.” (Kick did not respond to our request for comment asking to clarify what they meant by this tweet.)
But the statement did little to squash conversation. In a Twitter Space on Sunday, dozens of Kick streamers flocked into the call to share their thoughts on the matter. “Kick was built purely for looser [Terms of Service],” said one creator. “We have a co-founder in chat seemingly leading it on,” said another. Denino himself came into the chat room to share a fake apology, then added, “Fuck cancellists.”
Kick’s Head of Strategic Partnerships Andrew Santamaria also joined the Space saying that he isn’t “condoning one side or the other.”
“I feel bad that levels of content have to be made this way, and I do feel bad that people get triggered through life experiences,” Santamaria said.
Kick is a platform that promises streamers a chance to make more money, which is a compelling argument in this wallet-tight creator economy. The site’s top creators have always been controversial, pushing crypto gambling or getting into worldwide scandals. This uncomfortable encounter caught on camera is just another in a wide array of scandals the site has welcomed.
But this seems to be the situation that broke through the zeitgeist, causing a backlash amongst creators in a way previously unforeseen. Creators are begging for Kick to beef up content moderation and enforce their Community Guidelines so they can feel safe creating a community there. If they don’t, Kick could lose the creators who are the lifeblood of any streaming platform.
What is your experience on Kick? Email [email protected] to share your story.