Steph “FerociouslySteph” Loehr has been on the Twitch Security Advisory Council since the first day. Twitch announced the eight-member group on May 14, 2020 and spent the next few days clarify what exactly that would do. Advisors would offer insight into the moderation and harassment policies on the site, but they would not have the power to change the rules, arbitrate specific cases, or represent Twitch publicly.
Meanwhile, Loehr, a trans woman, was targeted in a coordinated harassment campaign led by Twitch fans who disliked the idea of a Safety Advisory Board, regardless of what it actually accomplished. Loehr became the de facto The face of the council and its streams were inundated with cruelty, transphobia and death threats. She was doxxed and feared for her everyday life. She had to move. She stopped broadcasting for a while.
“Twitch hasn’t done enough to protect me in the least,” Loehr said.
Even as a member of the Security Advisory Council, Loehr felt like she was alone in the face of death threats, bigotry, and spitting vitriol from Twitch. She may have the ear of the business, but that relationship hasn’t given her any additional tools to tackle harassment on the platform.
So she created her own.
Peer2Peer.Live is a third-party site that allows Twitch streamers to tag themselves using identifying words and phrases, such as “lesbian”, “trans”, “black”, “off” or “Jewish”. This allows streamers to build communities around their identities, while also serving as a directory for viewers looking for streams they can connect with on the most basic levels. Peer2Peer is built by a team of five, including Loehr, and in collaboration with the non-profit group Trans lifeline.
“The essence is that people with marginalized identities feel safer in spaces that include them, and the easiest way to find those safe spaces is to find their peers,” Loehr said. “And that discovery opportunity was totally blocked by Twitch.”
Tic has a marking system offering hundreds of descriptors relating to video game genres, fictional characters, and specific game modes, but it only has one identity-based, LGBTQIA +. If you want to natively find a Twitch streamer that isn’t Binary, or Latinx, or Disabled, or Muslim, it takes a lot of scrolling and luck.
As Twitch has grown into the largest live video platform in existence, it has expanded beyond video games to include streams on art, music, podcasting, and “singles.” cat”. There are thousands of people streaming Fortnite, Warzone and Grand Theft Auto V at all times, viewers are often drawn to creators based on other traits including personality, demeanor, and identity. Still, Twitch’s tagging system doesn’t make it easy to find streamers based on these factors.
Peer2Peer’s slogan is “identity is content”. This is a key goal for Irene Nieves, advisory member of Peer2Peer, a non-binary Afrolatine who broadcasts on Twitch.
“From Twitch’s current perspective, identity is both unfulfilled and not important enough to them to allow people to personally allow themselves to brand themselves with the aspects of their identity that mean the most to them, ”said Nieves. “Because those beacons don’t exist for trans people and for marginalized people, it takes them away from the platform in general. It is virtually impossible for trans and marginalized people to find each other and create the sense of community that often gives us the space and freedom to be ourselves.
Twitch has so far ignored Peer2Peer, Loehr said. The Security Advisory Council is adjourned for the time being and she has not had the opportunity to present identity-based labels with her colleagues. Primarily, the council discussed updates to community policies and guidelines.
In response to a few prompts about Peer2Peer and the company’s approach to security for marginalized streamers, Twitch offered Engadget the following statement:
We know that many groups on Twitch – including the trans community – Unfortunately, continue to experience a disproportionate amount of harassment and abuse online, including on our service. Dealing with harassment because of race, gender, or any other protected characteristic is unacceptable and has no place on Twitch.
We have invested heavily in security over the past year. We have revised our Hateful Conduct and Harassment, Nudity and Dress, and Off-Duty Misconduct policies to enable us to take consistent action against harmful behavior and provide greater clarity to our community. We’ve introduced improved reporting processes so the community can report inappropriate or harassing content, and we’ve increased our moderation team fourfold, allowing us to respond to user reports much faster. We’ve improved our moderation and proactive detection tools to block harmful content, and we still have work in progress. We’ve partnered closely with industry experts and streamers from under-represented groups to ensure our policies and technologies are optimized to protect our global community and take into account the unique needs of all of our users.
We know we still have work ahead of us and remain committed to making Twitch the safest and most inclusive community possible.
This is similar to the Twitch language used in December 2020, when the company rolled out its new rules on hateful behavior and harassment. At the time, Twitch said in a blog post: “We know that many people on Twitch – especially women, members of the LGBTQIA + community, Blacks, Indigenous people and people of color – unfortunately continue to do so. experience a disproportionate amount of harassment and abuse online. , including on our service. “
Twitch’s responses are all too familiar to Lucia Everblack, a pansexual, non-binary trans woman who helped develop Peer2Peer.
“It’s performative,” she says. “Like, ‘We’re trying. This is our plan. Someone pointed it out the other day – they still have the plan, but there’s no execution plan. “
Last week, Twitch launched another: Our plan to deal with serious out-of-service misconduct. For years, Twitch has come under fire for failing to protect its community’s most vulnerable members while simultaneously supporting streamers who engage in sexual harassment and hate speech, and otherwise violate company rules. Favorite streamers tend to be white, cisgender, and straight men. In other words, people who don’t use identity-based tags a lot because their identity is already accepted as the norm on Twitch.
Twitch executives told Loehr they were hesitant to implement a “trans” tag because it could invite harassment.
“But it’s ridiculous for a number of reasons,” Loehr said. On the one hand, marginalized Twitch creators are already being abused every time they go live, according to Loehr, Nieves, Everblack and many more. Twitch did not take appropriate action to stop or prevent the current harassment, rendering the company’s concerns void.
“Most of the time,” said Loehr, “we should allow trans streamers to consent to discoverability and the additional harassment that comes with it, which is part of Peer2Peer.”
Peer2Peer went live on March 20 and received over 1,600 applications from interested streamers. Each of them read the warning that increased visibility could lead to targeted harassment, and they chose to tag themselves based on their identity regardless. For these streamers, the benefits of discoverability outweigh the threat of further harassment.
“Getting that visibility helps us humanize ourselves in a way that I think is probably the most powerful aspect of any movement,” Everblack said. “Once people see that we are just people they stop treating us like demons or men who are just trying to sneak into another bathroom when all we are trying to do is do Pee. It really helps. I think even what we do, allowing people to tag each other, is slowly moving us forward. “
It probably wouldn’t be difficult for Twitch to implement Peer2Peer’s tagging system, Everblack said.
“The beacons they have, it’s not like they’re adding an entire infrastructure behind it,” she said. “If they wanted to add new tags, it would literally mean adding something to a database that had ‘trans’ and then a unique identifier. And that’s all. There is no complexity to this.
As it stands, it often falls on marginalized Twitch streamers – themselves victims of abuse – to moderate their own communities using inadequate tools. Just two weeks ago, Nieves was subjected to a ‘bot tracking’ attack, where a user flooded his channel with fake accounts in an attempt to trigger punishment from Twitch. As a result, Nieves’ subscriber count fell to “almost nothing”. She was forced to start building her community again from scratch.
“Every day I still watch my black and brown streamer friends, the people I’m trans, LGBTQIA + streamers, get harassed with little to no consequence other than moderation on behalf of their own community,” Nieves said. . “There is no system in place that prevents stalkers or attackers from creating an unlimited number of accounts to continue spitting vitriol or hate raiding.”
Loehr said there were some great ideas in the Twitch repository, including the Chat Timeout, which holds messages for two to six seconds before posting, giving moderators time to remove abuse before they go. are not uploaded.
“And that’s what you want. But you have to dive into your moderation settings to define that, ”she said. “It’s not even on Twitch’s radar that this is the tool people need.”
And this despite Loehr’s place on the Twitch Safety Advisory Council.
“I can have some of these conversations with Twitch about their philosophy,” Loehr said. “And I’m still confused, because – I don’t want to speak for Twitch, but I have a feeling that Twitch is afraid to implement what we’ve been doing. I think they feel like they’re going to mess it up and they just can’t. They feel they are not equipped to support marginalized communities and the safety of those marginalized communities on their platform. But they also like to introduce us to Pride Month and Black History Month, so they want to reap the rewards without accepting responsibility.
For now, Peer2Peer will take care of that.