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What Do Twitch's New Community Guidelines Mean?

There's a lot to process in the anti-harassment and conduct policy changes for Twitch. Here's an easy to understand overview of what's new and what it means for broadcasters and fans alike.

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Last week Twitch announced some sweeping changes to their policies regarding harassment and appropriate content for broadcasters and partners who use the livestreaming giant’s. While I can’t for sure what the main catalyst is for the change, these new policies do come on the cusp of a few incidents including one involving popular livestreamer Dr.Disrespect being called out for a video that showed him using a racially insensitive accent during a broadcast. I sat in on a conference call for Twitch Partners to find out what these changes meant in more clear-cut layman terms for both broadcasters and audiences alike.

Not Suitable For All Audiences

Twitch has updated their guidelines to more precisely define what qualifies as overtly sexual or sexually suggestive. They will now consider all elements of a stream when determining if they have violated policies. That means everything from profile pics, written content on a partner’s page and what kind of language the partner allows (do they let things get flirty or allow vulgar humor?).

Dress codes will now be adjusted for given situations, so cosplayers working on costumes can work on more revealing costumes or IRL streamers hanging out at a pool or beach can broadcast in a swimsuit since it’s appropriate, but doing a bikini baking show or broadcasting gameplay wearing underwear or lingerie will not fly. Nudity for art or education purposes is still not allowed, but there are options being worked on. In general, the dress code for livestreamers has been described as “what you could wear at a mall” and "is not that different from previous guidelines about applying common sense to one's attire."  

Going Over Everything With A Fine-Toothed Comb

The process for examining reported channels will now take a closer look at the context and intent of the entire stream when deeming something okay or inappropriate. Streamers won’t be able to make a crass or rude comment then immediately declare it was just a joke or they were “just kidding.” Playful joking between friends is still okay, but streamers have to be as clear as possible when making jokes in general.

Protected classes have been added to the guidelines for clarity. Making fun of someone’s race, gender, physical appearance, or sexual orientation could result in a permanent suspension even for a first infraction.

Sharing The Blame

Twitch will now hold streamers responsible for the actions or their audience if they are found to be encouraging hate, harassment, or facilitating other bad behavior. This means that broadcasters can get in trouble if they tell their fans to go harass someone during a livestream or encourage them to go to on someone’s social media page and leave rude or harassing comments.

To that end, Twitch will now take a look a look at harassment that happens off-site. They will still exercise discretion when looking at off-site issues and encourage people to send links when reporting an issue, as screenshots are not are not verifiable as, for example, a direct link to an offending website.

Cleaning House

Previous broadcasts that pre-date the new harassment policies can still be found in violation and broadcasters have until February 19 to get their VODs up to code. There will be no excuses for breaking TOS after that date. But it appears that Twitch won’t be going on any witch hunts to find any buried dirt unless it’s a severe infraction, but that doesn’t mean that an inappropriate VOD won’t get reported by a community member down the line.

A Symposium Of Ideas

While there’s a lot being done here to make Twitch a safer community for everyone involved, they recognize that edgy topics will still be discussed. They’re not trying to break down those talks or censor broadcasters with unpopular viewpoints, but it must be made clear when a conversation is satirical or a topic is a hot-button issue. Broadcasters must be polite in their conversations, so saying “I don’t like X person or thing” is okay, but it must be clear that this is a not a signal for a broadcaster’s audience to harass someone or partake in hate speech.

Sexually explicit music and songs with hate speech should still be avoided, but if there’s some sexual content in a game being played as long as it’s not the focus of a broadcast or lingered on for an inappropriate amount of time.

More To Come

This is not the last change coming to Twitch and their policies. But in order to make sure that broadcasters have time to process changes and make the appropriate adjustments to their channels they are being piecemealed.

Before publishing, we reached out to Twitch to corroborate all this new information. A Twitch representative was able to confirm the accuracy of our article and offered the following statement:

“We take harassment very seriously and understand how important this is for the entire Twitch community. As such, with over a decade of experience in moderating live video, we feature a best-in-class approach to moderation.

We offer a full suite of moderation tools that allow broadcasters to ban specific words, links and even ban or time-out individuals from their chat. On top of that we offer AutoMod which employs machine learning and natural language processing to identify and block inappropriate content from appearing in chat. AutoMod features four preset levels to filter out several categories of potentially abusive language: Identity Language, Sexually Explicit Language, Aggressive Language, and Profanity. The higher the level, the more strict the filtering.

Creators can set Chat Rules for their channels which require visitors to acknowledge these rules before taking part in chat.

Broadcasters are able to assign human moderators from their community to help monitor their chat.

We have very robust terms of service and community guidelines, as well as featuring a report button on every channel for when these rules are broken.

We globally employ human Moderators 24/7/365 to respond to reports and take appropriate action as soon as Community Guidelines violations are identified.

We feature detailed guides in our online Help Center regarding how to manage harassment in chat and how to file a report.”

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