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Streamers Concerned Twitch's New Unban Request Feature Will Just Lead To More Harassment

Illustration for article titled Streamers Concerned Twitchs New Unban Request Feature Will Just Lead To More Harassment
Image: Twitch

Fact: No chat user in the history of Twitch has ever believed they were justly banned. But generally speaking, a streamer or moderator did, in fact, ban them for a reason. Despite this, Twitch has introduced a new feature that allows viewers to appeal their bans and get a new lease on their life of hurling obscenities or slurs in chat. Streamers are, predictably, not exactly enamored with the feature.

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Twitch announced the new feature on Twitter yesterday, noting that it’s part of the Mod View suite of tools that allows channel moderators to approve or deny chat messages, see previous actions taken by other mods, and look at viewers’ chat histories.

“We’ve added a widget in Mod View that lets you manage unban requests,” wrote Twitch. “Channel banned users can submit an appeal through the Chat column, which you can review and take action on, anonymously.”

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Admittedly, not every banned chat user is an abuse-shrieking edgelord. Maybe a viewer didn’t read chat rules closely enough and then shared a spoiler, or did some backseat gaming. But streamers and moderators still greeted this news with a raised eyebrow. Foremost, many are concerned that this just gives harassers another means of doing their thing via messages they’re able to send along with their unban requests. Marginalized streamers, especially, have spoken out about how the feature provides another place people can go to insult them for being trans, people of color, or any number of other identities that don’t fit the straight white default. Some have even shared images of viewers who used the N-word already trying to request an unban.

“They’re banned for a reason,” Twitch partner Veronica “Nikatine” Ripley wrote on Twitter, echoing the same sentiment as hundreds of similarly-minded streamers. “My wonderful moderators work too hard to still deal with harassment after a long day of banning (many) trolls. I will never ask them to read this junk mail.”

“This is like when I block someone on Twitter so they hop on their alt to continue being shitty,” said esports host and Twitch partner Jess Brohard. “Only now on Twitch they don’t even have to have an alt.”

On the upside, banned viewers can only make one request. If a streamer or moderator shoots them down, they’re done for. But it’s still more work for (often unpaid) moderators, and it contributes to a preexisting pattern in which particularly shitty viewers throw fits about being banned from every available angle. Generally, this involves repeated DMs and, in some cases, multiple accounts. Now these users have those tools plus the unban request feature.

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Some streamers and moderators are cautiously optimistic about unban requests. If nothing else, this will hopefully mean that good-faith requests are no longer spread across Twitch DMs, Twitter, email, Discord messages, and whatnot. But many streamers don’t ban people willy-nilly. Bans often come only after repeated timeouts (temporary bans, basically) and rule violations. That in mind, some streamers have banded together to ask Twitch to let them manually disable the feature.

“There is racism, harassment, homophobia, sexism, etc going on [on] Twitch,” wrote a moderator commenting on Twitch’s official feature suggestion forum. “Your fancy new functionality gives [those] kind[s] of people a platform to go a second time on harassment, insult, or even threaten streamers and moderators. And with all seriousness: There has to be an option to turn that off!”

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Kotaku senior reporter. Beats: Twitch, streaming, PC gaming. Writing a book about streamers tentatively titled "STREAMERS" to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in the future.

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DISCUSSION

I almost never watch twitch, however, one of my favorite Magic the Gathering players basically only plays on Twitch and behind a paywall now, so I was watching some of the “previous broadcast” videos or whatever they are called and HOLY SHIT THE ADS. They come out of FUCKING nowhere and the audio mix is so bad they are like 3 times louder than the content. It’s unbearable.