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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Twitch ‘working on’ making ban notifications more specific

The platform is also revisiting its policy around words like ‘cracker’

(Washington Post illustration; Twitch)
4 min

On a platform as large as Twitch, it can feel like there’s a new controversy every day. But many share a commonality: bewilderment over suspensions. Currently, when Twitch creators get suspended or banned, the company sends an email summarizing the reason, where the violation occurred and the length of the resulting suspension. But in the reason section, Twitch lists only which rule was broken and examples of violative conduct — not what the specific streamer reading the email did. That could soon change.

Twitch’s current policy leads to frequent confusion and drama. Sometimes, a streamer sincerely does not know why they’ve been sent to Twitch jail; in other cases, they hope to garner sympathy from fans by feigning ignorance. While Twitch has improved suspension emails over the years, streamers have continued to ask for case-specific details.

Twitch VP of trust and safety Angela Hession told The Washington Post that suspension emails that include clips of infractions are likely on the way.

“Safety is a journey, and this is a number-one ask from our community. So we’re looking at how we can attach more details for people to understand — like the video itself. That’s something we’re definitely working on,” Hession said, adding that more “specifics and clarity” will come after Twitch has nailed down how it wants to roll out the feature.

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In the meantime, Hession touted Twitch’s recent addition of an appeals portal, which has streamlined the process of objecting to suspensions and bans in cases where users feel like Twitch missed the mark. This is key, given that for some, Twitch is a major source of income; even just a handful of days away can amount to money left on the table or an exodus of paying subscribers. This new tool has validated Twitch’s approach to moderation, global VP of safety ops Rob Lewington said. Even before the feature was implemented, Twitch regularly double-checked decisions to make sure they aligned with the platform’s guidelines, establishing a success rate of over 99 percent. Now, that success rate is even higher.

“When we look at the [appeals portal] data, it turns out that less than one percent is actually quite a lot less than one percent,” Lewington said.

Sometimes, though, the problem is not whether a moderation decision adheres to guidelines; it’s the guidelines themselves. For example, last year the Twitch community erupted into furor following the suspensions of multiple high-profile creators, including leftist political star Hasan “HasanAbi” Piker, for use of the word “cracker” in a derogatory manner. Following this, many streamers felt Twitch’s policy suggested equivalence between “cracker” and other overtly dehumanizing slurs against marginalized people. Twitch spokesperson Ariane de Selliers told The Post that Twitch is reevaluating that controversial policy.

“We heard the community’s concerns, and we’re currently working with experts to see if that approach still makes sense for our global community today,” she said. “That process of reevaluation with experts is constant for Twitch.”

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Regular reevaluation and evolution of policies led Twitch to, among other things, an off-service rule that takes into account creators’ behavior in other public forums like YouTube and Twitter. This stands to become an especially pressing matter in the near future, with Elon Musk seemingly on the verge of purchasing Twitter. (Though also potentially not. Who knows anymore?) Musk has vowed to apply a far lighter touch when it comes to content moderation, which could lead to a significantly more unruly platform — one at odds with Twitch, which has quadrupled the number of workers available to respond to user reports in recent years.

Given that coordinated harassment on Twitter can easily spill over into Twitch chats, some users are bracing for the worst. Hession believes, however, that thanks to an off-service policy constructed with the whole Internet in mind, Twitch is ready for whatever’s coming.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen on Twitter. There’s still so much to be decided,” she said. “What I will say is that safety is a priority [for us]. If you look at our off-services policy, it’s very much making sure that no physical harm happens to our community here on Twitch. I would say our off-services policy is broader than just one platform. It’s multiple platforms, and our intention is to make sure that we are constantly ensuring that our community feels safe.”