Twitch suspended a channel that showed footage of George Floyd's fatal assault

Nonprofit news outlet Unicorn Riot was streaming the trial of Floyd's alleged murderer.

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Nicholas Pfosi / reuters

Twitch has suspended a channel run by a nonprofit news outlet after it showed footage of the incident that led to George Floyd’s death. Unicorn Riot was livestreaming the trial of Floyd’s alleged murderer Derek Chauvin, which began on Monday.

A video depicting Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine and a half minutes last May was shown to jurors. Floyd was pronounced dead an hour after the incident. His death prompted months of worldwide protests in support of racial justice.

Twitch rightfully has rules against streaming violent content. It takes a zero-tolerance approach to acts and threats of violence. The video of Floyd's death is clearly newsworthy, but unlike YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Twitch doesn’t grant exemptions for such material. 

As The Verge reports, Twitch removed the footage of Floyd’s death and suspended Unicorn Riot’s channel for 30 days. Twitch doesn't comment on the reasons behind the suspensions of specific channels. Unicorn Riot was able to stream the trial (and footage of the incident) on its YouTube, Facebook and Periscope accounts, as well as its website, without any problems.

Facebook and Twitter have notably granted exemptions to users who break the rules if they believe posts are newsworthy. The former took a hands-off approach to politicians for a while and that policy is under review from Facebook's Oversight Board.

Determining which content is newsworthy is a complex issue, though. It's one that has potential Section 230 implications over whether the likes of Facebook and Twitter should be classed as platforms or publishers due to their editorial decisions. Twitch has decided to keep out of those muddy waters entirely with a blanket ban, but the platform is putting itself in a slightly awkward position compared with rival platforms as it continues to grow beyond game streaming. Entirely banning violent footage, even if it's newsworthy, could limit the discussion of important issues.

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