Attendees walk past televisions showing live streams of Twitch Interactive’s video service during the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Twitch, the Amazon-owned video streaming platform primarily used by gamers to livestream their games, announced a new policy Wednesday that allows the company to take action against users who display certain malicious behaviors completely offline.
The policy represents a unique approach among social media at a time when the industry has been under escalating pressure to implement strong and consistent content moderation policies. As lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have threatened to deprive online platforms of their protection under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, many platforms have taken steps to place stronger railings on what users can post.
Under the new policy, Twitch may suspend users for up to an indefinite period after a third-party investigator finds that there is strong evidence that the person has engaged in certain offline behaviors. These acts include involvement in lethal violence, terrorist activities, caring for children for sexual exploitation, committing sexual assault or even “acting as an accomplice in sexual activities that do not agree.”
Twitch said it will work with “an experienced investigative law firm” to determine the validity of claims that will at times rely on access to evidence from law enforcement. The company said it would not trade in a user’s account until it completes its investigation and confirms evidence of misconduct.
Harmful offline behavior does not have to involve another Twitch user to be considered a violation, a spokesman confirmed. It is based on the notion that people who engage in this type of behavior are more likely to create security risks for the Twitch community, the spokesman added.
Other social media platforms also take into account real harms spread by users on their platforms, but Twitch’s new policy is unique for its explicitness in tackling complete offline behavior and for some of the types of offline behavior it prohibits. For example, Facebook’s community standards prevent mass murderers and members of terrorist, hate, criminal, or human trafficking organizations from having any kind of presence on its platforms. Twitch’s policies include other offline behaviors that may not be part of an organized criminal group, such as committing sexual assault.
Social media platforms tend to base the majority of their enforcement actions on damages arising from content actually published on their services. While they may take real-world events into account when assessing the damage, they will typically point to posts on their own platforms as a turning point for action.
Even when Facebook and Twitter each decided to ban former President Donald Trump from their services following the uprising at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, their rationale was fundamentally rooted in the ways they said he used or could potentially use their platforms. to incite further violence.
Twitch’s new approach comes in the wake of a broader discussion of how certain real events should be handled by the technical platforms. Last month, a Business Insider investigation highlighted a woman’s accusation against Dominykas Zeglaitis, a member of the so-called Vlog Squad led by the popular vlogger David Dobrik. The unnamed woman said Zeglaitis sexually assaulted her one night, and she and her friends appeared in one of the group’s videos when she said she was too drunk to give consent. Zeglaitis declined to comment on the allegations to Insider.
Google-owned YouTube said after the report that it would temporarily prevent Dobrik from monetizing his account through ads. YouTube’s creators’ policies state that off-platform behavior, including violence or cruelty, may result in penalties, such as losing advertising opportunities or having their videos displayed in user recommendations.
Although Twitch will initially tackle a handful of listed serious offenses, the platform said it aims for the guidelines to be iterative. Since offline injuries can be difficult to verify, the company first prioritized categories that they felt would be most harmful to society.
Users who want to confidentially report offline damages that fall into the categories banned by Twitch can send an email to OSIT@twitch.tv.
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