“Woman at the wheel, accident at the corner”, “Manon killed Maxime’s race, she could puncture” or even “Aren’t you ashamed Manon?! Why do we invite women to these events? Never invite her again"... Since Saturday September 9, the first name "Manon", of YouTuber Manon Lanza, has been one of the most mentioned keywords on X (formerly Twitter) all weekend.
On the social network, thousands of Internet users are calling for the rape, or even the murder, of the young woman. The same violent messages are multiplying in the comments on the streamer's Instagram page and under the videos on her YouTube channel. At the origin of this violence, the GP Explorer 2, the car race organized by the YouTuber Squeezie and broadcast live on the Twitch streaming platform. During the event, which took place at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans, videographer Manon Lanza crashed into the car of the very popular streamer Maxime Biaggi. Following the incident, both participants were eliminated from the race.
The young woman ended up in hospital and is currently recovering from chest shock and a cervical hernia. But she also has to face the outpouring of hatred from part of the streamer's community, who consider her responsible for her elimination. “I am shocked to land in top trends on X in the face of a deadly earthquake in Morocco,” she reacted Monday in the columns of Le Parisien. “They are using me to add a layer of sexism.” As for the organization of the GP Explorer, it was only the day after the race, Sunday September 10, that an official message of support for Manon Lanza was published. And, at present, Squeezie, the main instigator of this F4 race, has not communicated about the cyberharassment suffered by the YouTuber.
Streamer Maxime Biaggi, hit in his race by Manon Lanza, said a simple “Strength to Manon” in an ephemeral story on Instagram. On his X account, he did not call on his community to support the young woman or to avoid any form of harassment against her. “How is it possible that the organizers and the 24 participants as a whole did not jointly condemn this cyberharassment?”, asked several Internet users.
“It’s a problem that we see from Zevent, the charity event organized on the Twitch platform by the streamer Zerator,” explains streamer Nat’ali, founder of the Furax association which raises funds against violence done to women. “These events, like this one, are essentially organized for men and by men. There are few women and, upstream, there is no system to prevent cyberharassment of guests.” During the edition of Zevent organized in 2021, the streamer Ultia, invited to the event, denounced live the sexist behavior of the YouTuber Inoxtag towards another influencer.
For the young woman, this speech lasting a few minutes led to immediate cyberharassment. It has been going on for almost three years. Last October, Ultia even decided to file a complaint after yet another wave of rape and death threats on social networks. But on the Zevent side in 2021, no message of support from the organization, even if only to condemn the dangers of cyberharassment, was published for several hours. “The videographers who organize these events are first focused on getting views and continuing the storytelling around their personal success,” continues Nat’ali.
The Nous Tous association published a press release this weekend to call on organizers of online events to take their responsibility. “This requires zero tolerance for harassment: if an Internet user harasses a participant, he must be banned from the channels. “We need reminders before, during and after the event as well as highlighting women who are often relegated to the background,” explains the press release.
“We must not forget that most of these popular YouTubers or streamers are young. They are seen as geniuses by their community and they have never had to suffer such social violence,” continues streamer Nat’ali. A starification which pushes the influencers in question to avoid divisive subjects, synonymous with loss of subscribers and money. And therefore not doing the prevention deemed necessary by most streamers and associations like All of Us. “Being divisive by denouncing the cyberharassment of their female colleagues is not an option, so generally the organizers put a “band-aid”, notes the streamer. In short, they communicate after the event, in an awkward and individual way.
Rather than working on real prevention, some streamers even prefer to avoid inviting their female colleagues. In November 2022, the streamer Amine organized a football match, Eleven All Stars, between French and Spanish streamers. The meeting brought together more than a million spectators on the live broadcast on Twitch and broke an audience record on the platform. But no women were part of the event. The latter will admit in a live broadcast that he does not want “them to be harassed” by participating in this match. To raise awareness, he and his friend and streamer Billy will launch a project called “Place of Peace”, which aims to help Twitch channels report messages deemed inappropriate towards female streamers.
Last June, the “Zen au Zénith” show was held. An event which takes its name from the show “Zen”, co-hosted by streamers Maxime Biaggi and Grim, broadcast on Twitch. For the last of the season, the two partners organized a live broadcast from the Zénith in Paris and brought together more than 5,000 people in the room. Only, out of the myriad of guests, only one woman was invited: YouTuber Léna Situations.
An absence that has consequences. “Our presence remains so rare in these events that it seems exceptional. In fact, when we are finally present, we are questioned only on that, Nat’ali retorts. For example during this weekend's GP Explorer, journalists asked streamers Horty and Baghera what it was like to be in an all-female team; It’s a shame to reduce their participation in this.”
Without having male colleagues who are sufficiently informed on the issue of cyberharassment, female streamers are forced to constantly communicate on the subject. And this, as soon as this situation arises for herself or one of their colleagues. Thus, in October 2022, streamer Maghla wrote an entire thread on X, to talk about the frequent harassment she experiences and the consequences for her mental health. “We are the only ones to express ourselves on this and, as a result, when a situation like the one Manon is currently experiencing, the media only questions us,” describes Nat’ali.
In short, women active on Twitch are only highlighted in the worst situations they can face. “To the detriment of our projects and the work we provide upstream,” underlines the streamer. “At times, we lose hope, we tell ourselves that even if one day a streamer ends her life after having suffered cyberharassment, no one will react,” assures the videographer. “After all, Manon was already in the hospital when some Internet users started to harass her and want her dead,” she concludes, bitterly.