Adam Rawnsley and Kelly Weill
Six months after a judge ordered her to pay more than $25,000 in fines and fees related to a charity donation scam, Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman had earned back her losses. In fact, she was averaging more than $25,000 every two months—this time in donations she gathered on the live streaming platform Twitch.
A series of leaked documents has provided new insight into how much far-right figures have been making on Twitch, even after many of them were banned from platforms like YouTube.
The leaks, shared in the form of a 125GB torrent, first appeared on the troll-friendly forum 4chan earlier this week. The data dump purports to show earnings for the site’s approximately top 10,000 channels. And among those top-earners are fringe figures who promote conspiracy theories like QAnon, recommend drinking bleach, and seek to delegitimize the 2020 presidential elections.
Maras-Lindeman, a proponent of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, has been banned from Twitter. Her other credentials are also less than perfect. In September 2020, a North Dakota judge ordered her to pay more than $25,000 in fines after she was found to have advertised a Christmas concert to benefit the homeless, but actually spent the money at Target, QVC, and a hair-removal center called Waxing The City.
When Maras-Lindeman signed on as an “expert witness” in a disastrous legal effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, the Washington Post revealed Maras-Lindeman to have a long history of inflating or fabricating her résumé, at times passing herself off as a pediatric oncologist despite her lack of a medical degree.
But on Twitch, where she is not banned, Maras-Lindeman enjoys a less critical audience. There, she streams under the username “ToreSays,” and has raked in more than $150,000. Records from the Twitch leak, first noted by the researcher “Trapezoid of Discovery,” reveal that Maras-Lindeman’s Twitch income skyrocketed in 2021 when she became one of the website’s loudest voices pushing election fraud conspiracy theories.
Those records show $140,692 in 2021 earnings from subscribers—who pay $4.99 monthly, with a percentage going to Twitch—advertisements, and donations. (Maras-Lindeman did not immediately return a request for comment.)
Twitch’s very top earners are not far-right figures but gamers and a handful of left-leaning internet personalities, the leaks indicate. The top-earning channel, Critical Role, which is a collective of voice-actors who have broadcasted a long-running Dungeons and Dragons game, has earned more than $9 million since 2019. And the site’s highest-earning individual streamer, Félix “xQc” Lengyel, made more than $8 million during that time, the Washington Post reported. Hasan “HasanAbi” Piker, the site’s top political streamer, made more than $2 million.
But fringey far-right figures also seem to be doing quite well for themselves. Payouts listed in the Twitch hack show Millie Weaver, a conservative conspiracy theorist and former InfoWars correspondent, made at least $9,300 from her Twitch channel this year—more than twice what SocialBlade estimates her YouTube channel pulls in.
Twitch has also served, not just as a revenue source, but as a platform of last resort for some far-right streamers.
Zak Paine, who goes by “RedPill78,” has used his channel to promote QAnon and voter fraud hoaxes, and has encouraged users to drink a dangerous bleach solution, which some fringe figures falsely tout as a miracle cure.
Those antics earned Paine 270,000 subscribers and nearly 49 million views before YouTube booted him from the platform in October 2020. Paine, using the pseudonym sued “Christopher Doe,” joined other right-wings streamers that the company suspended to sue YouTube. “I cannot now effectively reach and cannot effectively otherwise contact the subscribers and audience I had built up over time,” Paine said.
Paine set up his Twitch channel in 2017, before his ouster from YouTube. But after his suspension, Twitch served as a more welcoming backup source of income. Payment records in the Twitch documents dumped online show Paine has netted nearly $10,000 in the last two years from the company.
The same is true for Patriot Soapbox, a streaming channel credited with helping the QAnon hoax’s early popularity, stayed alive after its YouTube ban by pivoting to Twitch, where it streamed for about two months before it was eventually suspended there too.
Twitch leaks reveal the channel to have made just over $2,000, almost entirely in 2020 when it was most active.
While the Twitch leaks provide new insight into how much some far-right figures are making by promoting wild conspiracy theories, some streamers have cautioned that the revenue figures don’t paint the full financial picture. Some told the Wall Street Journal that the leaked numbers did not perfectly align with their earnings. And others flagged Twitch-related earnings that were not recorded in the leak, like sponsorship deals and donations through third-party websites.
Far-right figures have also made lucrative use of direct fundraising sites. In April, the New York Times reported that Maras-Lindeman’s fans donated more than $84,000 through the site GoFundMe to celebrate Maras-Lindeman’s birthday.
Paine, meanwhile, has used his stream to encourage donations to an Ohio congressional candidate who attended a pre-riot rally in D.C. on Jan. 6.