Twitch has apologised after viewers of The Overwatch League were subjected to transphobic adverts.
Audiences of the professional online multiplayer game in Australia and New Zealand were targeted by ads which called the surge in children seeking gender treatment “a disaster”.
They also linked Safe Schools – an LGBT anti-bullying campaign that has been repeatedly attacked by homophobes – to paedophilia.
More than 10 million people watched games in the team-based first-person shooter league in its first week, according to reports.
It is unclear how many people saw the offensive ads.
They were produced by Parents HQ, an organisation which has accused the Safe Schools programme of “queering children”.
One of the ads read: “The ‘Safe Schools’ programme is sexualising children and leading hundreds to seek medical ‘gender transition’ treatments.
“When a child is prescribed puberty blockers, their natural development is halted and they are set on the path to hormones and surgery – irreversible mutilation.”
This is incorrect. Puberty blockers are reversible.
Another ad told viewers: “The number of children seeking gender treatment at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital increased from one in 2003 to 18 in 2012 with 200 referrals expected in 2017.
“This is a disaster that has been meticulously engineered.”
The ads sparked outrage from viewers including Tim Colwill, who took to Twitter to register his disgust.
He wrote: “Hell yeah time to tune into The Overwatch League on Twitch and uhhh get served some… f***ing… transphobic ads?
“From some f***ing bulls*** called ‘Parents HQ’??”
In a subsequent tweet, he said: “[kicks back to watch the world’s best Overwatch players display their skills] ah yes what the screaming s*** is this transphobic filth”.
“‘This ad supports Overwatch League’ yeah I should f***ing hope it doesn’t actually,” he added.
18 hours later, Twitch informed Clodbill that the ads had been removed.
“Thanks for bringing this to our attention,” the company wrote on Twitter.
“Twitch does not allow nor support political advertising.
“This slipped through our political ad filter due to a categorisation error at the ad network level.
“We have since removed it.”
This satisfied Clodbill, who wrote: “Appreciate you taking care of it!” but other users were not happy with the company’s apology.
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One person said: “So your problem with it is that it’s ‘political’ and not that you had hateful, transphobic factually incorrect ad to air on one of the most character diverse games event?
“No apology? No damnation of that kind of ad? No statement for your trans and gender diverse audience?”
“Okay but the lives of trans people are political,” wrote Kristen Lyssara.
“This isn’t a ‘political ad’, it’s eugenicist hate speech.”
And another said: “Can you maybe take a better stance on this transphobic bigotry than ‘it technically isn’t a category of advertisement that we normally allow’?
“Just say it’s bigotry; that should honestly be enough of a reason to get rid of it.”
They added that it was “good that these ads were removed.
“What is not good is that the ads are (apparently) being removed on a technicality – as though they would be acceptable if their bigotry were housed in a different format.
“You can do better than that,” they told Twitch.