Twitch yesterday launched new moderation options which let hosts restrict chat to people who have verified their account by tying it to a phone number, hopefully helping fight the plague of 'hate raids'. Frustrations with the livestreaming platform's ineffectual response to harrassment recently came to a head with the #ADayOffTwitch campaign, when many streamers and viewers skipped Twitch for one day. The new (optional) options are fairly nuanced, and should help channels control marauding hordes of bots and dickheads without keeping chat fully locked down.
"Hate and harassment of any kind is unacceptable and prohibited on Twitch, whether it's an offensive message, malicious follows, or the egregious 'hate raid' attacks that have targeted marginalized creators over the past months," Twitch said when launching the new features last night. "Curbing this type of behavior is, and will continue to be, a top priority for us."
So, now they've launched new options which let channels restrict chat to users who have verified their account through an SMS code sent to a phone, and/or verified an e-mail address. Neatly, it's not as simple as "verify or hush". You can lock chat down only for verified users, but you can also require verification only for first-time chatters, or allow unverified chatters who have accounts of a certain age (options range from 1 hour to 6 months), or who have followed your channel for a while (from 10 minutes to 3 months). You can also exempt subscribers, VIPs, and moderators from verification. Twitch say that VOIP and landlines can't be used, and obviously a phone number tied to a suspended account can't be used to verify new accounts.
Requiring verification could really slow down bots, which are are a huge problem in hate raids. Using bots, individual harassers can conjure huge armies to spam racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise loathsome chat. Twitch are currently suing two alleged hate raid leaders who supposedly had thousands of bots at their command.
"Botting is a longstanding, internet-wide problem that will never have an 100% success rate – this added layer of account verification will certainly make it harder for malicious actors to spam-bot your chat en masse," Twitch said. "No single tech solution will ever block bad actors' behavior entirely, but this new hurdle will work within our constantly evolving suite of technologies and tooling, to slow them down considerably and reduce the number of channels they can impact."
The dilemma is: you want options to shut down hate raids, but you might not want to clamp down so much that you push out viewers. Twitch previously had the option to restrict chat to subscribers only, but that can hinder a channel. With these new options, channels can stop a fair bit of drive-by dickheadery and keep out people they've previously banned. Sucks if you don't have a pocket telephone, but welp.
Twitch do recognise there are legitimate reasons someone to have multiple accounts so they allow up to five be verified on one phone number, but they'll all be taken out if one gets banned. And likewise, if a user bans one verified account from their channel, all other accounts connected to that number or e-mail address are banned too.
The verification options are available now in Twitch's moderation settings.
Started by streamers RekItRaven, LuciaEverblack and ShineyPen, the #ADayOffTwitch campaign saw many streamers and viewers protest by skipping the site on the 1st of September. It gained mainstream attention beyond the usual games blogosphere, with the likes of CNN, The Washington Post, and NPR reporting on it too. That probably put the wind up Amazon, though I suppose bad press has never made them stop being awful. Twitch reportedly did suffer a noticeable drop in viewership.
"Our work to make Twitch safer will never be over, just as there'll never be a single fix for harassment and hate online," the company added yesterday. They say their next step will be "launching a new channel-level ban evasion tool in the coming months".