Twitch streamers may soon be able to restrict who can or cannot hop into the chat. According to Twitch observer Zach Bussey, the streaming giant is planning on adding expanded features that would allow streamers to require phone or email verification from the commentariat.
For most of the summer, Twitch streamers have grappled with a scourge of “hate raids.” Thanks to the platform’s “raid” feature, which allows streamers to redirect viewers to another channel, bad-faith streamers can send droves of commenters to other channels in coordinated harassment campaigns. Most of these users show up with the worst possible intentions, and often flood channels with waves of sickening slurs and insults. The Washington Post reported that these campaigns are organized off Twitch, on clandestine Discord servers.
Streamers told Kotaku that requiring users to register with a phone number would be one of the most effective methods for putting a stop to hate raids, far more effective than email verification, which already exists on the platform. It’s easy to create alternate email addresses, so while requiring email verification for chatters is a speed bump, it doesn’t stop the hate raids in their tracks.
The way things stand now, since it’s so easy to create new accounts on Twitch, banned streamers can simply create a new account and pop right back into the chat. Sometimes, they do so with brazen insistence. For instance, Twitch filed suit earlier this month against two anonymous users it claims organized hate raids. One of those users, who’s believed to operate under the handle CreatineOverdose, allegedly returned with screen names such as CreatineReturns, CreatineBanEvades, and CreatineReported.
Though this user would be able to return as a hypothetical CreatineFrakensteinsMonster, these new channel-level tools could prevent CreatineFrankensteinsMonster from commenting on specific channels.
Here’s how it’d work: Once these tools are live, if you’re a streamer, you’ll be able to require viewers to verify a phone number or an email address before leaving comments. You could make it so they’d need to do so if they’re chatting on your stream for the very first time, if their account hasn’t been active for long, or if they followed you within a specific time frame (say, a matter of hours or days). You can also set exceptions for VIPs, moderators, and subscribers.
The German streamer Dracon shared a screenshot of what those options would look like on Twitch’s UI. Bussey obtained a screenshot as well, citing an anonymous source.
It’s not clear when these anti-harassment measures would be implemented on a wide scale, or if they’re officially in the works. Twitch declined to comment to Kotaku on the record.
Update 09/29/2021 2:44 p.m. ET: Twitch just announced these chat changes via its official blog. As we reported previously, broadcasters will be able to limit chat privileges on their channels to viewers with verified phone numbers and/or emails through customizable backend tools, starting today.
The streaming giant is hopeful that this will mitigate its ongoing issues with hate raids, which inundate chats with massive amounts of harassing and hateful messages. Before today, streamers often found themselves unable to quell the flood on their own, prompting several to boycott the site on September 1 and demand better moderation tools.
“We’ve spent many months building, testing and refining this tool,” Twitch said, “and while this is far from the last update on our roadmap to improve Creator safety, we’re optimistic about the impact it can have in making a safer Twitch.”