Twitch has issued new moderation rules around misinformation on Thursday that take aim at channels spreading lies about vaccines and the ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as other fringe online movements like QAnon. The policy builds off one Twitch established last year that gave it authority to issue suspensions and bans to accounts of streamers who committed real-world crimes or other "severe offenses."
Twitch said its new rules are about preventing “harmful misinformation superspreaders who persistently share misinformation on or off of Twitch," according to a report from The New York Times. The policy will only affect less than 100 channels, as the company said misinformation is not as prevalent on its game streaming platform as it is on other social media sites.
But Twitch is calling this move a "precautionary step" to "ensure that these misinformation superspreaders won’t find a home on our service,” Twitch's Angela Hession, the company's vice president of Trust and Safety, said in a statement. The main targets at the moment appear to be those spreading health-related conspiracy theories and lies about COVID-19 vaccines, as well as those engaging in efforts to spread Russian propaganda amid the war in Ukraine and other politically motivated conspiracy theories.
"We've learned that harmful misinformation actors account for a disproportionate amount of damaging, widely debunked misinformation online," Twitch said, noting that it's partnered with "over a dozen researchers and experts to understand how harmful misinformation spreads online" and how to best craft policy around the behavior. "Together, we’ve identified three characteristics that all of these actors share: Their online presence – whether on or off Twitch – is dedicated to (1) persistently sharing (2) widely disproven and broadly shared (3) harmful misinformation topics, such as conspiracies that promote violence."
Although Twitch mainly centers on internet personalities streaming themselves playing video games, the platform has emerged in recent years as a potent force among younger internet users for serving up political and social commentary more closely resembling podcasts and traditional talk radio. Among the top streamed content on Twitch is a category called Just Chatting, which has become a kind of catch-all umbrella for when streamers talk directly to their audiences, react to other videos and news articles and generally just opine about what's happening in the world or in the streamer's particular corner of the internet.
As a result, Twitch has found itself wading more often into the murky waters of platform moderation, including issuing suspensions and permanent bans to streamers who violate copyright rules, harass other streamers in real time or cross the line with regards to offensive language or content. Now, it appears Twitch is adding spreading lies to its list of ban-worthy offenses.