Twitch has unveiled a new, more detailed policy on hateful conduct and harassment, and the fresh rules are scheduled to go into effect on January 22nd. The delay is designed to give streamers and audience members time to digest the changes and adjust their behavior accordingly, if need be.
The updates fall into three categories — hateful conduct, harassment and sexual harassment.
Starting with hateful conduct, Twitch has added three protected identity characteristics to its list — caste, color and immigration status — meaning users will face punishment for attacking someone based on these traits. The remaining protected characteristics are race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, serious medical condition and veteran status.
Additionally, starting on January 22nd, the Confederate flag will be added to Twitch’s list of hate symbols and banned from streams, “given its historic and symbolic association with slavery and white supremacist groups in the US,” the company said. Hate groups and their propaganda are explicitly prohibited this time around, too. Emotes will also be subject to scrutiny under the new policy, even without accompanying text.
In terms of harassment, Twitch added the following specific behaviors to its lineup of offenses: claiming the victim of a well-documented tragedy is a crisis actor; encouraging others to doxx, hack, swat or DDoS someone; and inciting malicious raids of another person’s social media profiles.
Under the new rules, Twitch has made sexual harassment a separate category and “adopted a much lower tolerance for objectifying or harassing behavior.” Specifically, the following actions are prohibited: repeatedly commenting on someone’s attractiveness when they’ve indicated their discomfort verbally or through time-outs and channel bans; making explicit comments about someone’s sexuality or physical appearance, even if they’re a public figure; and sharing unsolicited nude images or videos.
Sex-based insults and objectifying statements about other users or public figures will result in a suspension at the first offense. The fresh rules also ban slut-shaming, to put it simply. “Making derogatory statements about another person’s perceived sexual practices or sexual morality” is not allowed, nor is “making degrading statements about a person’s sexual health.”
“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,” the company’s blog post said. “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.”
Overall, Twitch is attempting to take a more holistic approach to safety on the platform. The Safety team will consider the context of incidences, looking at channel time-outs and bans, as well as direct reports from targeted users or a mod, to determine whether someone has crossed a line.
Twitch updated its community guidelines in October to more explicitly lay out its ban on terrorist and extremist content, and it launched a streamer-led Safety Advisory Council in May. All of these are positive steps for a company that’s struggled for years to provide clear, consistent rules around appropriate behavior on its platform.