Good-humored trash-talking has long been a part of video game culture. But Twitch, the video game livestream platform, is drawing a line. On Wednesday, Twitch unveiled new guidelines aimed at curbing hate speech and discriminatory imagery.
About the Changes
First, the Amazon-owned platform is broadening its definition of sexual harassment and doubling-down on penalties for policy violators. Under new guidelines, players who make lewd or continuous comments about anyone’s physical appearance can be banned from the site. The new rules will also explicitly ban the sending of unsolicited links to nudity.
Additionally, Twitch will prohibit live-streamers from displaying hateful symbols like the Confederate battle flag, swastikas or the use of blackface. Those who violate the norms will a face warning, a temporary suspension or permanent ban from the site.
Following a yearlong review that employed experts in the field of cyberbullying and diversity and inclusion, Twitch has laid out its new standards that it calls the most significant policy update in three years. The new guidelines will take effect in January, and will only apply to content and livestreams created after the rollout.
“We need to ensure that anyone who shows up on Twitch feels safe and confident that they can broadcast without harassment,” says Sara Clemens, Twitch’s chief operating officer. “There are constituents on Twitch, particularly underrepresented minority groups, who experience a disproportionate amount of harassment and abuse online.”
History of Harassment
Indeed, the company recognized that “women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” as well as “Black, Indigenous and other people of color unfortunately continue to experience a disproportionate amount of harassment and abuse online, including on our service.”
Twitch unveiled its current anti-harassment policies in 2018, but many have argued that they were too lax. Subsequently, dozens of (mostly female) gamers have told stories of being harassed on the platform. This June, streamers called for a “Twitch Blackout” or a boycott of the site until it took such accusations more seriously. At the time, Twitch promised to ramp up penalties for repeat violators.
Twitch has become a leading social platform for young people, and has even been an outlet for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The New York progressive has hosted several livestreams while playing video games on Twitch. Her aim is to better communicate with young Americans and to encourage voting and civic responsibility.
Twitch’s move toward stricter harassment policies represents the growing significance of the app in public discourse. This is especially true among young people less likely to use platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Thus, the new policies aim to make Twitch a safer and more inviting place for young gamers to communicate.
Reprinted with permission from https://werax.com/twitch-cracks-down-on-hate-speech-and-harassment/
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