Oversights of The Overwatch League

The Overwatch League (OWL) is in hot water after recently producing a social media fail on one of their live broadcasts. As part of their Mother’s Day celebrations, an image of British serial killers Fred and Rosemary West was put onto the stream by unsuspecting producers who took the tweet from a troll to be serious, failing to understand who was really in the photo. At the time, just over 200,000 viewers from around the world saw the gaffe on Twitch per reports from Dotesports (2019).

The Overwatch League is familiar with social media ‘fails’, with this not being their first. However, each presents its own crisis for those involved in the production of the League and those at the parent company, Blizzard Entertainment.

Key Factors

A handful of controllable aspects of social media management led to this fail occurring, therefore meaning it could have been prevented. Today, community management is a tool in place to handle and enforce the infinite scale of the internet. “Online communities quickly discovered that communities need care: they had to address the challenges of interpersonal conflict and obscene speech” (Gillespie, 2017). As a result, platforms such as Reddit deploy ‘community managers’ throughout their forums and pages in order to combat shocking and troll-like behaviour. Many companies and businesses have a similar role or come part of being in a social media management position, where most content is mediated. The recurring issue as cited by Forsyth (2016) is the exponential scale where these communities and the internet, in general, is expanding, which is reducing the effectivity of such approaches to online media management.

As social media platforms grow, as the does the human labor required to moderate such content. As the amount of content scales, as does increase the chance of ambiguity, potential bias, and oversight within the system (Roberts, 2016). While there is a considerable team behind The Overwatch League and Blizzard entertainment, this issue of scale in social media moderation is exemplified.

Throughout the history of the OWL, there have been many social media fails, from that regarded use of ‘Pepe the Frog’ a cartoon that in recent years has been subjected to scrutiny over reasons fabricated to suggest links to white supremacy ideology, the use of the OK hand sign for a similar reason and various minor incidents regarding players who participated in ‘trash talk’ (Lewis, 2018). Despite this, the OWL has shown a lack of competency in being able to react and correct for such issues occurring.

~Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it~

In the weeks leading up to the Mother’s day fiasco, R. Lewis (2019) indicated that the same Twitter functionality used in the live broadcast was being misrepresented. Tweets shown were coming from accounts that appeared to be created in very suspicious circumstances with little details, but as the tweets themselves were fitting for the show, with relevant hashtags and all, they ended up on the live stream.

The overarching problem across these two distinct issues is, how it was handled by Blizzard Entertainment and The Overwatch League, who took a completely hands-off approach and did not address either issue whatsoever in the public domain. While this is an approach in the realm of social media management, it is not an effective means of crisis management, particularly for what was required around this fail. Per Graham (2019), a response framework and strategy for crisis management is essential. This outlines the ‘house rules’ for when everything goes wrong, enabling the company to respond according and heal the damage done as a result of backlash or mismanagement. What further amplifies the fail is how Blizzard Entertainment and the OWL tend to typically show they have systems and procedure in place for such events, however for this fail did not deploy them.


In order to minimise risk and prevent further/similar fails from occurring a selection of strategies can be deployed by the Overwatch League. As mentioned throughout, the Overwatch League has experienced many social media crises prior to this, in addition to what Blizzard Entertainment has also experienced over the last few years. This would suggest that there would be an abundance of information and data that would inform a test and learn type matrix. Put simply, a tool that is designed to optimise future decision making based on the history of events and their outcomes prior. Examples of such would include, ‘Now checking the images of content scheduled to appear on the official live stream before airing’.

Furthermore, a more thorough approach to community content management is required, whether it be more automated or additional humans. This would reduce the risk for explicit, risky or troll like content from being able to make its way through the current system as it has for the Mother’s day fail. While scaling will always be a growing problem, it simply must be addressed, otherwise, platforms and communities can get out of hand rapidly.

Finally, a more in-depth crisis management plan is key for resolving future conflict and problems. When everything does go haphazardly, addressing the issue and systematically following through the steps of responding and taking on board the necessary feedback and steps to resolve the issue are a must. An extension of this planning is that a business is able to establish ‘house rules’ with their audience and internal team to encourage the most productive and healthy social media environment. Overall, this system in conjunction with a higher order content management strategy and a reactive approach to issues that do occur, not only will there be less opportunity for fails like this to occur, but once one does happen, the likelihood of repetition becomes very low.


In summary, this incident from The Overwatch League was dealt with very poorly and sets a poor precedent for any issues that occur in the future. In order to fully understand why this was, the key factors were shown to be as a result of insufficient community management and human labor in addition to a lack of crisis management plan for such fails. Following this, solutions were given that aim to prevent future issues and optimise the general social media management for The Overwatch League.


Breslau, R. (2019). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/slasher/status/1127667694805966854?lang=en

Forsyth, H. (2016). Forum. In B. Peters (Ed.), Digital keywords. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Gillespie, T. (2010). The politics of ‘platforms’. New Media & Society, 12(3), 347–364.

Gillespie, T. (2015). Platforms intervene. Social Media + Society, 1(1), 2056305115580479.

Graham, T (2019) KCB206 — Social Media, Self and Society Retrieved from https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/

Lewis, R. (2018) Stream Highlight: OWL vs “Racist” Memes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIHEtn2xIVk

Petrosyan, A. (2019). Overwatch League tricked into showing image of serial killers on stream | Dexerto.com. Retrieved from https://www.dexerto.com/overwatch/overwatch-league-tricked-into-showing-image-serial-killers-stream-620690

Samples, R. (2019). Overwatch League accidentally features 2 serial killers in stream of Mother’s Day tweets | Dot Esports. Retrieved from https://dotesports.com/overwatch/news/owl-accidentally-features-2-serial-killers-stream-mothers-day-tweets




QUT — Media & Communications

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Ashley Whyte

Ashley Whyte

QUT — Media & Communications

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