Twitch released a policy update on Wednesday, announcing that going forward they would suspend or ban streamers and viewers who are involved in what they described as "severe misconduct", even if the users didn't engage in any of that conduct on their service. The company cited threats of mass violence and belonging to known hate groups as two examples of actionable violations under the new policy.
"Our current guidelines state that in some serious cases where there is available, verifiable evidence, we may take action against users for hateful conduct or harassment that occurs off Twitch services—meaning on social media, other online services, or even offline—when directed at members of the Twitch community," the company said in a blog post on Wednesday.
The new rules involve two categories of off-service enforcement. Category one will apply when someone is harassed both on Twitch and outside of Twitch. In this case, Twitch will take into account behaviors both on and off Twitch when determining if action is appropriate. Category two will be for more serious offenses, that in some cases could take place entirely outside of the Twitch ecosystem. These investigations will be more rigorous and take more time.
Examples of Category two violations include:
- Deadly violence
- Violent extremism
- Terrorist activities or recruitment
- Explicit and/or credible threats of mass violence
- Leadership or membership in a known hate group
- Carrying out or acting as an accomplice to non-consensual sexual activities and/or sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation of children, such as child grooming and solicitation/distribution of underage sexual materials
- Actions that would directly and explicitly compromise the physical safety of the Twitch community, such as threatening violence at a Twitch event
- Explicit and/or credible threats against Twitch, including Twitch staff
According to Twitch, these listed behaviors are only the most egregious examples of misconduct, and may not cover all types of actional harassment or abuse.
"While this policy is new, we have taken action historically against serious, clear misconduct that took place off service, but until now, we didn’t have an approach that scaled," Twitch explained on Wednesday. "[Off-Twitch] investigations are vastly more complex and can take significant time and resources to resolve. We have access to the relevant data about activity that occurs on the Twitch service, which enables us to investigate reports and enforce our policies. For behaviors that take place off Twitch, we must rely more heavily on law enforcement and other services to share relevant evidence before we can move forward."
To help with these investigations, Twitch will be hiring a "highly-regarded third party" investigative partner. According to Twitch, that partner will be someone who "is an experienced investigations law firm that is dedicated to conducting independent workplace and campus investigations including those related to sexual discrimination or assault." They also stated that they will be increasing their internal law enforcement response team as well.
As an extra step, Twitch is also creating a new dedicated address where community members can report misconduct. The address is OSIT@Twitch.tv. All information sent to that address will be treated as confidential. You can also use the standard Twitch reporting tool for other types of harmful and inappropriate behavior.
"Strong communities are built on trust, and we are putting in place a rigorous process to enable us to conduct investigations thoroughly, equitably, and with sensitivity," Twitch concluded. "We will only take action when there is evidence, which may include links, screenshots, video of off-Twitch behavior, interviews, police filings or interactions, that have been verified by our law enforcement response team or our third-party investigators."
To learn more about the new policy, visit the Twitch Blog to read their full comments and their Frequently Asked Questions section.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.