Breastfeeding is a-okay on Twitch, the livestreaming site seem to have now decided - an apparent u-turn on a recent decision to delete a clip in which a streamer fed her baby while streaming. Good. Breastfeeding in public is legal in all US states (and in the UK, and across huge swathes of the world). Given that Twitch is about so much more than watching games these days--it even has a Social Eating section, y'know--it had seemed they were taking another regressive stance. Naw, they say, the clip was deleted by a moderator reacting with uncertainty to "an incident that has not previously occurred on Twitch." Go ahead.
Heather "HeatheredEffect" Kent regularly streams chat and ASMR on Twitch. During an hour-and-a-half chat stream with a pal on July 25th, her daughter was sat on her lap and wanted to feed, so Kent fed her. It was very much not the focus of the stream. Part of this was saved as a Twitch clip, which a Twitch moderator soon deleted. Presumably for the glimpse of bare nipple when her daughter briefly pauses? With no explanation offered, it was unclear whether Twitch policy was to ban breastfeeding children, if they thought it was sexual, or what.
Kent being an advocate for public breastfeeding across various parts of her career, she protested and spread the word.
Today I streamed while breastfeeding on @Twitch. This clip (which had over 20k views and would’ve helped tremendously with the #normalizebreastfeeding movement) was deleted by Twitch with no explanation. We obviously have a long way to go in the fight to normalize breastfeeding. pic.twitter.com/uHCAebA1Fu— HeatheredEffect ASMR (@HeatheredEffect) July 24, 2019
The deletion, Twitch have apparently now said, was a mistake. Kent last night posted a message she said she received from Twitch, apologising for the incident. While Twitch haven't posted a public statement yet (or replied to my e-mail seeking one), the message looked legit to Kotaku, who saw it in full.
Twitch's message explains that several users reported the clip for "Adult Nudity", something the site tend to treat as "sexual content" and ban. But the moderator who deleted it didn't know what to do with breastfeeding, Twitch say, because the site hadn't decided anything about it before.
"After further discussion between Partnerships, Safety Ops and Trust and Safety there is alignment between all teams that breastfeeding is not and will not be against the [terms of service]," the message says.
"As you so eloquently put it 'breastfeeding is not lewd' and we agree with you. Twitch Community Guidelines will need to be updated to provide a level of transparency which will take time but I can assure it's on the agenda."
Given that Twitch tend to have a massive blind spot for context, this is a welcome surprise. In the stream which led to the deleted clip, Kent even talked about the importance of normalising breastfeeding children.
"I was so scared to breastfeed in public with my first, and I remember just talking to girls that would stop breastfeeding because people would make them feel uncomfortable or say something to them," she said. "Or they had to be in a separate room or do something different."
Twitch is a platform which created a whole 'Social Eating' category when it became clear some streamers wanted to keep streaming while they paused to eat. They made eating a feature. You can just hang out and watch adults talk with their mouths full. It is good that they won't force parents offline to feed their ever-ravenous children. Whether Twitch is the parent's job or just for funsies, it should be a place they're free to breastfeed.