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Twitch Just Made It Harder To Be A Jerk In Chat

Illustration for article titled Twitch Just Made It Harder To Be A Jerk In Chat
Image: Twitch

A good Twitch chat is like a serene sea: always welcome, but all too rare a respite from the choppier waters of the internet. Over the years, Twitch has given chat moderators tools to lock out ugliness-spewing ne’er-do-wells, but a number of loopholes have allowed dedicated trolls to slip back under the gates with relative ease. New changes, however, may finally send pernicious chatters packing.

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First and foremost, if a viewer gets banned from chat, they’re not just blocked from making comments anymore; now, they can no longer see chat at all. They also no longer appear in follower or chat lists, meaning they can’t continue to quietly make their presence known and potentially cause streamers discomfort.

The most potentially impactful change, though, is one that Twitch did not publicly announce. According to Devin Nash, CMO of streaming company N3rdfusion, additional accounts created by banned users are now immediately shadowbanned based on their IP. This means that they can still comment, but nobody will see what they’re saying. For years now, determined ban evaders have repeatedly gone through the painless process of creating a new Twitch account every time they’ve gotten banned. This has, in some cases, effectively allowed them to stalk streamers they dislike. This new Twitch functionality could finally close that loophole. Well, for people with static IP addresses, anyway.

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Twitch has also made moderation more convenient. Yesterday, the company introduced Mod View, a customizable page that allows moderators to suspend users, ban them, and perform other actions more easily. Previously, moderators had to type chat commands in order to perform the lion’s share of actions. In addition, Mod View lets moderators search users in chat and see their histories (messages they’ve sent, how many times they’ve been timed out, etc). There’s also a queue for questionable messages flagged by Twitch’s AutoMod tool, which human moderators can then approve or deny.

Hopefully, these changes will lead to safer, more pleasant Twitch chats. Failing that, fingers crossed that this at least does away with Twitch’s most commonly abused ban evasion and stalking tactic. Frankly, it’s about time. 

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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

Unfortunately, having had my own obsessive stalker who organised with both a Real Money Trader, and even a gaming company itself to make 3 years of rape and death threats because of criticism of said game, the sad truth is neither the law, nor technology is in any position to do much about this... for now.

Not only are most ISPs running on dynamic IPs now, so a simple turning on and off of your router will reset your IP address, but you can use proxies and free virtual proxy networks (VPNs) like TunnelBear etc to permanently hide. Email verification doesn’t work, as free throw aways like Mailinator.com not only exist, but have found ways to hide their own identity so you can’t block registration from those addresses.

And without that, the law is largely powerless in turn. In most cases they won’t bother investigating, but even if you try and do so as a private prosecution you need to Court Order the company the harassment is done through first (So in this case, you’d have to demand the details from Twitch) and they likely don’t know anything more than the IP anyway.

Until there’s a way to undeniably lock someone’s identity to something they can’t change easily, like hardware or even real world identity, all you can do is hope to exhaust the lunatic’s desire to harm you... and because they ARE lunatics, they usually have more obsessional fanaticism, indeed they are proud of their “weaponised autism” as it’s known.

And these kind of changes are ultimately coming; they just don’t know when to stop being toxic, and sooner or later they’ll try harassing someone with power (likely a thin skinned politician like Trump). Or a totalitarian state like China. Which already produces much of the world’s tech hardware. We’ll throw away much of the early benefits of internet anonymity because some moral and emotional pygmies couldn’t stop being arseholes online.