In the wake of some Overwatch League players’ controversial banter and Blizzard’s disclosure of searching for toxic players outside of reports within Overwatch, Twitch has updated its community guidelines with a similar approach toward qualifying conduct and harassment that merits banning from the streaming platform.
The new guidelines state that since “The Twitch community is also at conventions, TwitchCon, Twitch Community Meetups, and even social media,” the company will, “take them into consideration when it comes to our role in keeping the community safe.” This means that if Twitch users are caught abusing others via other platforms such as YouTube or Twitter, this will be justifiable grounds for punitive actions. Anything derogatory associated with race, religion, sex, disabilities, and other sensitive issues will factor into Twitch’s assessment of who they temporarily or permanently remove. You can read the full list of what counts as harassment and hateful conduct through this link.
Polygon’s Julia Alexander got in touch with Twitch and confirmed that it will not have a devoted team watching over other platforms for toxicity. The company will instead work from internal reports and move outward if deemed necessary. While this may raise concerns of big brother-esque surveillance, the Twitch representative Alexander spoke with assured that “Twitch will consider a number of factors to determine the intent and context of any reported hateful conduct.” The ending of the company’s Hateful Conduct and Harassment page confirms as much, clarifying that “content or activity that appears to be harassing may be unintentional and, upon being told their actions are making others uncomfortable, the user may correct their behavior.”
The changes will take effect on February 19 at 9:00 am PST. Users who might be in violation of the new guidelines will be notified by Twitch of any offending past videos or behavior, which will need to be removed soon if they want to continue using the platform. You can read Twitch’s rationale for the implementation of these new community rules through this link.
Even though I’ve spoken on pubic voice chat and used plenty of online forums in the past, I’ve never been a subject of online bullying. That being said, I’m sympathetic toward those who have experienced undue mental and emotional abuse. I believe that more thorough yet careful assessments of any sort of community is required these days, which is something YouTube truly needs to get a grip on with its monetization and content guidelines. While I am concerned this more hardline approach has the potential to backfire and cause trouble for well-meaning content creators and streamers, it seems that Twitch will attempt to avoid falling in that trap.