On Dec. 9, Twitch updated their "Hateful Content and Harassment Policy" to better protect the creators and community on their platform. They also explained the update in a site blog found here.
"This updated policy will apply only to content that is created on or after January 22, 2021," when it goes into effect, allowing for ample time for Twitch to both educate their streamers and viewers and make necessary changes before shipping the update.
"These changes are intended to better protect the community, not to be punitive, so we are sharing them before the updated policy goes into effect to ensure you have adequate time to understand what is changing."
In their reasoning for the update, Twitch cites the ongoing hate and harassment that many receive on the site, particularly "women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Black, Indigenous, and people of color." The announcement comes just days after a viral clip made by streamer Yoojin was posted to Twitter where she explains an often occurrence of men's predatory behavior to women streamers.
As part of the update, Twitch created an entirely new "Sexual Harassment" category that they will monitor differently than before when it was lumped in "Harassment" more generally. They also explained how they will judge offenses moving forward.
"Under the new policy, our Safety team will look at the content of statements or actions in order to determine whether a behavior is abusive and violates our guidelines, rather than relying solely on perceived intent," Twitch writes without explaining how that's more thorough than before. They also state they will rely on some action from the streamers and mods, like timing out the offender, banning them, and so on, so that they can have more clear evidence on whether a behavior is friendly banter or truly unwanted.
While the Harassment category didn't receive much change, the Hateful Conduct and Sexual Harassment categories did. Twitch also added more protected categories to their list to make for a more global system, and they will be prohibiting an expanded list of behaviors, including certain uses of emotes with malicious intent. The platform also announced they'd be banning all displays of the Confederate Flag, along with hate groups, and the use of "black/brown/yellow/redface unless they are being used in an explicitly educational context."
"While sexual harassment has always been prohibited on Twitch, we’ve heard from our community that our guidelines didn’t adequately account for harassing behaviors that are sexual in nature," Twitch explained. In their updated Sexual Harassment clause, they explain certain behaviors that are always prohibited, regardless of intent, if it is unwanted behavior. Twitch also explains how even if the target is not offended, the behavior can upset others in the community, and therefore harassment is still prohibited.
Twitch also extends their judgment on harassment, sexual harassment, and hateful conduct offenders off their site directly, including offenses made at in-person Twitch events, on social media, and more.
In their update, they have a list of FAQs where they further explain the distinction of many of their rules and boundaries, like how they will differentiate between friendly, mutual banter, and legitimate harassment. And in their blog post, they explain why they allow the use of slurs on their platform.
"We acknowledge that some slurs have a history of reclamation or colloquial use to indicate belonging to certain groups or communities. While these terms are traditionally tied to identity, we do not believe that Twitch is, or should be, in a position to determine an individual’s identity. After consultation with a number of diversity & inclusivity academics, we have decided to allow the use of some terms that may otherwise be viewed as slurs so as not to alienate or limit the expression of communities on Twitch. However, we still prohibit slurs when used in an explicitly hateful or targeted manner. This is not a perfect solution but we think it is the best option to ensure that Twitch is a truly inclusive space."
They continue later, stating:
"A hateful slur is language that generally degrades or denigrates based on a protected characteristic. When we evaluate the use of a hateful slur, we take context into account, and we do make an exception for the use of some words or terms in an empowering way, or as terms of belonging when such intent is clear. We enforce against the use of hateful slurs globally, and in multiple languages."
Stay tuned for more updates on Twitch's policies and enactment here.