Twitch, the Amazon-owned livestreaming platform popular with gamers, said it’s trying to make the platform a safer and more inclusive community with the adoption of updated Hateful Conduct and Harassment policies.
As part of the new policies, Twitch said, displaying the Confederate flag is now prohibited “given its historic and symbolic association with slavery and white supremacist groups in the U.S.”
The updated policies are the culmination of “months of research, community feedback and consultation with trust and safety experts,” according to a Twitch rep, and represent its most significant changes in almost three years.
The changes come after Twitch came under fire this summer for failing to take discernable action on numerous complaints from women about sexual harassment they experienced on the platform. This June, in a “Twitch blackout” protest, multiple streamers suspended livestreaming on their channels for 24 hours.
“We know that many people on Twitch — particularly women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Black, Indigenous, and people of color — unfortunately continue to experience a disproportionate amount of harassment and abuse online, including on our service,” Twitch said in a blog outlining the updated policies. “Not only is this blatantly unacceptable, it also undermines the community we’re building on Twitch and threatens the long term viability of streaming as a career for everyone who wishes to pursue it.”
Twitch’s updated policies will apply only to content that is created on or after Jan. 22, 2021. The service said that if users believe they have received a strike for older content, they are encouraged to file an appeal and Twitch moderators will review the content at issue.
Violators of the expanded Hateful Conduct and Harassment policies may get warnings and temporary suspensions ranging from 24 hours to 30 days. “In the most severe cases, we will issue indefinite suspensions on the first offense, or due to repeat offenses,” Twitch said.
Here are the highlights of Twitch’s expanded policies, according to the company:
- Intent: The new policy focuses less on perceived intent and more on content and impact. “We believe this will enable us to better protect all members of our community, and facilitate more consistent enforcement,” Twitch said.
- Hateful Conduct: Hate speech has always been prohibited on Twitch; the new policies add “caste, color, and immigration status” to its list of protected characteristics. The company also has added explicit language banning hate groups or hate-group propaganda and extended the policy to cover emote combinations that “dehumanize or perpetuate negative stereotypes.” Specifically, the updated Twitch policies prohibit black/brown/yellow/redface “unless they are being used in an explicitly educational context.”
- Harassment: While “trash talk and good-natured trolling” are allowed, Twitch said it will rely on user reports about unwanted behavior to determine whether that runs afoul of the policies.
- Sexual Harassment: Based on feedback from the Twitch community, the platform has separated sexual harassment into its own category “to take a more aggressive approach against this behavior.” For example, sex-based insults, including objectifying statements about other users or public figures (including lewd or explicit comments about anyone’s sexuality or physical appearance), are prohibited and will lead to suspension on the first offense, Twitch said. In addition, “Sending unwanted/unsolicited links to nude images or videos is prohibited.”