Twitch, the live streaming platform popular with video gamers, released new guidelines on Wednesday aimed at tackling hateful behavior and sexual harassment on its website.
The website, which belongs to Amazon, said it expanded its definition of sexual harassment and for the first time divided such violations into a new category so it could do more against them. Under the new guidelines, Twitch specifically prohibits lewd or repeated comments about someone's appearance prohibit sending unwanted links to nudity.
The company also said it would ban streamers from displaying the Confederate flag and take stricter measures against those targeting a person's immigration status. Violators may receive warnings, temporary suspensions or permanent bans from the platform.
Twitch said the changes were the most important updates to the policy in nearly three years. They followed a nearly year-long review that included consultations with streamers and academics looking at cyberbullying, diversity and inclusion. The new standards will come into effect in January.
"We need to make sure that everyone who shows up on Twitch feels safe and confident that they can broadcast without harassment," said Sara Clemens, Twitch's chief operating officer, in an interview. "There are voters on Twitch, especially underrepresented minority groups, who are exposed to disproportionate amounts of harassment and abuse online."
For years, Twitch has been haunted by claims that viewers could easily harass streamers with sexually explicit comments and threatening messages. On the platform, people can broadcast themselves by playing video games or just talking, and their audience can interact with them in real time via text chat. Twitch streamers themselves are largely responsible for ensuring that their target groups comply with the rules of the platform, e.g. B. by using Twitch's moderation tools in chats.
The company rolled out stricter guidelines in 2018, but came under fire in the summer after dozens of gamers and streamers – mostly women – publicly announced that they had been sexually molested and assaulted by others in the gaming industry, including Twitch.
In June, the streamers organized a one-day “Twitch Blackout,” in which some stopped broadcasting the platform in order to put pressure on them to investigate and address the allegations. The company said at the time that it would permanently ban serious criminals and improve the way it handles reported harassment.
That same month, Twitch temporarily banned President Trump's Twitch channel for "hateful behavior". The station had streamed its rallies, including comments that Mexico had sent drugs, crime and rapists across the border and that a "very bad hombre" had broken into a woman's home.
Other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have also come under pressure to remove hate speech and misinformation.
Kenzie Gordon, Ph.D. A student at the University of Alberta studying how games can be used to prevent sexual and domestic violence said the new guidelines are "very thorough and comprehensive". But how they are enforced will determine whether they are effective.
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"By making the creators responsible for moderating the guidelines on their own channels, they have shifted most of the enforcement work to people who were already vulnerable to abuse," Ms. Gordon said of Twitch. "We need to see how effective they are in helping streamers trying to stop abuse on their channels."
Twitch had a banner year. Given the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to stay indoors, many have been looking for online entertainment like streaming video games. Twitch now has an average of 26.5 million viewers per day, up from 17.5 million at the beginning of the year.
As the community has grown and become more global, it is important for Twitch to ensure that its policies reflect societal norms.
Many streamers make a living from Twitch, some make more than $ 1 million a year through subscriptions, donations, and promotion of the service. For this reason, according to Ms. Clemens, Twitch users should take a “workplace style” approach into account when considering which comments could lead to harassment.
Other changes include codifying and making more explicit the types of content and actions that were already unofficially banned. These include blackface, doxxing – online publication of personal data such as a person's telephone number – and hate group propaganda such as symbols of the NSDAP or white supremacist groups.
Twitch said there had been no guidelines for other categories of toxic content, such as coronavirus-related misinformation or the unsubstantiated QAnon conspiracy theory. However, the company said such content could violate its policies that prevent hateful behavior and the promotion of self-destructive behavior.