Twitch, everyone’s favorite streaming platform, recently updated its community guidelines. The changes introduced are largely to do with harassment, an issue that has been growing and festering in gaming and content-producing communities for many years now. There is a lot of new stuff going on in Twitch’s new policies, but one specific addition is getting all the attention from news sites and the like. Twitch now claims the authority to take in behavior from places outside of Twitch, when it comes to evaluating report cases and ultimately choosing whether or not to ban someone. The question undoubtedly on many minds is, is Twitch in the right to do this?
Twitch employees themselves are not scouring content platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Discord, and the like in order to filter out bad behavior by its own userbase. Rather, Twitch’s reporting tools now allow users submitting a report to attach evidence that comes from those and other sources. Essentially, the language suggests that if the behavior involves two people who are also members of Twitch, then that’s grounds for being considered for a ban.
It may seem a little off, on paper. It’s similar to recent statements from Blizzard, in which director Jeff Kaplan stated part of the Overwatch team uses platforms like YouTube to find abusive behavior in the game and dole out bans. It’s weird, because we usually don’t hear about companies acting outside of their own spaces to punish behavior that goes against their rules. In a corporate world so dominated by competition and insular TOS policies, it’s uncanny to see the lines blurring like this.
But it isn’t wrong, or bad, in this case. All of these services, regardless of them being in competing zones or not, are all interconnected. You can link your social media spaces to other social media spaces. You can set one to auto-post to the other when one updates. The Internet is an ecosystem, and crappy, harassing behavior from people poisons it for everyone involved.
If Overwatch content is going to be present on Twitter or YouTube, and you post your grieving videos or someone else posts evidence of you harassing another player, Blizzard has every right to use that to kick your ass out. Same with Twitch. If you have a problem with another Twitch member, and use Discord or some other platform to try and discretely go after them, then Twitch should absolutely be able to use that evidence if provided.
It mirrors the real world. If you do something to harm another person, and it goes to court, your behavior is used as evidence against you no matter where it came from. There’s no safe havens when it comes to hurting another person, in theory. Sure people get away with murder sometimes, but doing everything one can within the legal system to prevent that is part of the process. These service providers extending their harassment policies to include outside mediums is an extension of that, and considering practices like SWAT-ing, the stakes aren’t any lower.
So is it weird, in that notable, headline-worthy sort of way that Twitch is allowing outside activity in its reporting systems now for banning practices? Sure. It’s notably uncharacteristic. But as tools are evolving, methods to combat harmful behavior must do the same. Harassment is a big problem, and that problem only expands as technology does. Therefore, more work has to be done to deal with it head on. Don’t like it? Don’t be part of the problem.