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Twitch outlines updated Hateful Conduct and Harassment policy

Twitch is hoping to make its platform a safer place for everybody and has outlined a new Hateful Conduct and Harassment policy set to take effect in January.

Twitch is often a minefield to navigate, especially if you’re a woman or a minority. A marginalized person can often feel like there’s a target on their back, especially if somebody higher up punches down and targets them personally or sics their fanbase on them. This has been happening for years and now it looks like Twitch is finally taking greater steps to make their platform a safer place. On Wednesday, the streaming company outlined an updated Hateful Conduct and Harassment policy, which is set to take effect in January.

A long post outlining the new Hateful Conduct and Harassment policy was posted to the Twitch Blog. Here’s some of what it had to say:

We know that many people on Twitch–particularly women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Black, Indigenous, and people of color–unfortunately continue to experience a disproportionate amount of harassment and abuse online, including on our service. Not only is this blatantly unacceptable, it also undermines the community we’re building on Twitch and threatens the long term viability of streaming as a career for everyone who wishes to pursue it.

We’re incredibly proud of our Creators who show up every day to create great content and build welcoming spaces for their communities, and facing harassment because of race, gender, or any other protected characteristic is unacceptable and has no place on Twitch.

We developed the new policy to take a clearer and more consistent stance against hate and harassment, and to give you greater insight on what is and isn’t acceptable on Twitch. Hateful conduct and harassment have always been prohibited, but we’ve added more detail explaining the behaviors that fall into these categories. We’ve also added specific examples to help you understand how the policy is applied in practice.

This policy is the culmination of a months-long process incorporating extensive research within our community and consultation with industry experts across fields, as well as our Safety Advisory Council. We also drew heavily on a review of past cases to identify edge cases, and opportunities for clarification. Understanding how we’ve historically enforced these policies helped us address common points of confusion and increase enforcement consistency.

As part of the new policy, Twitch will be stricter in reviewing certain actions and evaluating their intent. Attacks based on race, ethnicity, color, caste, national origin, immigration status, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, serious medical condition, and veteran status are all prohibited, but Twitch has also added attacks against caste, color, and immigration status to that list. This includes more than using voice or text, but will now also extend to the usage of emotes as a malicious tool. On top of that, the Confederate flag will now be prohibited, based on its association with slavery and white supremacy.

In terms of addressing disproportionate harassment against female streamers, Twitch has made several additions to the new policy. Continued comments on attractiveness after a user has been warned to stop, lewd and explicit comments about sexuality, and unwanted nudes are now prohibited. This is being done in an effort to make Twitch safer for both CIS and trans women, many of whom frequently receive unwanted attention from trolls.

While some may take these updated rules as having to walk on eggshells, the Twitch team is assuring its users that punishments will be proportional to severity.

“While we are firmly addressing some behaviors that were not explicitly included in the previous policy, this iteration of our guidelines is also much more detailed, with enforcements tailored to the severity of the action or language,” the blog post adds. “As a result, behaviors that are relatively low in severity, or language commonly viewed as being colloquial, will receive warnings or lighter suspensions, while more malicious or overtly harmful behaviors and language will receive stricter penalties – the most severe violations will continue to receive an indefinite suspension on the first offense. In total, we expect that the penalties under this iteration of the policy will scale more appropriately to the severity of the violative behavior.”

The new policy will be enacted on January 22, 2021 and will not apply retroactively to content created before that date.

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