Twitch’s first transparency report is here – and it’s long overdue
Twitch released today his very first transparency report, detailing his efforts to protect the 26 million people who visit his site daily. When it comes to transparency, the ten-year-old Amazon-owned service had a lot to catch up with.
Twitch enjoyed a 40% increase in the number of channels between early and late 2020, supported by the popularity of live streaming technology and video games throughout the pandemic. This explosive growth, however, is also the company’s biggest challenge in tackling harassment and hate. Unlike recorded videos, live content is often spontaneous and fleeting. Things just happen, in front of a live audience of thousands or tens of thousands. This can include anything from 11 year olds to playing live Minecraft–expose them to potential predators– to Guy “Dr Disrespect” Beahm, celebrity of the game now banned diffusion a public bathroom at E3.
In its new transparency report, Twitch acknowledges this difficulty and for the first time offers specific details on how it moderates its platform. While the results are encouraging, what Twitch has historically not been transparent about speaks equally loudly.
Twitch gained a reputation early on for being a hotbed of toxicity. Women and minorities streaming on the platform has received hatred targeted by audiences hostile to people they believe deviated from gamer stereotypes. Twitch’s vague guidelines for so-called “sexually suggestive” content served as fuel to self-proclaimed anti-breast font to report female Twitch streamers en masse. Volunteer moderators watched Twitch’s Quick Chat to eliminate harassment. And for problematic streamers, Twitch relied on user reports.
In 2016, Twitch introduced an AutoMod tool, now enabled by default for all accounts, that blocks what its AI deems inappropriate from viewers’ messages. Like other major platforms, Twitch also relies on machine learning to flag potentially problematic content for human review. Twitch has also invested in human moderators to review the posted content. Yet a 2019 to study by the Anti-Defamation League revealed that nearly half of Twitch users surveyed said they had been harassed. And a GamesIndustry.Biz 2020 report quoted several Twitch employees as describing how company executives were not prioritizing security tools and dismissing concerns about hate speech.
All the while, Twitch did not have a transparency report to make its internal policies and operations clear to an abused user base. In an interview with WIREDTwitch’s new Trust and Security Officer Angela Hession says security is Twitch’s “number one investment” in 2020.
Over the years, Twitch has learned that bad faith stalkers can militarize its vague community standards, and in 2020 released updated versions of its “Nudity and Dress”, “Terrorism and Extreme Violence” and “Harassment” guidelines. and hateful conduct ”. Last year, Twitch appointed an eight-person Safety Advisory Board, made up of streamers, anti-bullying experts and social media researchers, that would draft policies to improve safety and moderation and healthy habits. streaming.
Last fall, Twitch brought in Hession, previously head of security at Xbox. Under Hession, Twitch ultimately banned representations of the Confederate Flag and blackface. Twitch is on fire, she says, and there is a great opportunity for her to imagine what security looks like there. “Twitch is a service that was designed to encourage users to feel comfortable expressing themselves and entertaining each other,” she says, “but we also want our community to be and always feel safe.” Hession says Twitch has quadrupled its content moderators over the past year.
Twitch’s transparency report serves as a victory round for its recent moderation efforts. AutoMod or active moderators reached over 95% of Twitch content throughout the second half of 2020, the company reports. People reporting being harassed via a Twitch direct message have declined by 70% over the same period. Enforcement metrics increased from 788,000 at the start of 2020 to 1.1 million at the end of 2020, which Twitch says reflects the increase in user numbers. User reports also increased during that time, from 5.9 million to 7.4 million, which Twitch again attributes to its growth. Ditto for its channel bans, which went from 2.3 million to 3.9 million.