Twitch's New Policies Are Worrying Some Provocative Streamers

Illustration for article titled Twitchs New Policies Are Worrying Some Provocative Streamersem/em

Yesterday, Twitch announced a series of new, more stringent policies around sexual content, harassment, and community behavior. Now streamers who’ve built their brands on pushing boundaries are worried that their channels might be on the chopping block.

Advertisement

During a stream yesterday, popular streamer Sebastian “Forsen” Fors, whose community is notoriously rowdy and has had a hand in popularizing a number of controversial memes like racist gag Ugandan Knuckles, voiced concern that a specific portion of the new guidelines—namely, the part that holds streamers accountable for hateful conduct from their communities—could get him banned. Forsen, who has 756,784 followers on Twitch, is by no means a small-timer, and his audience spans multiple platforms like Reddit and Discord. They’ve been known to do things like raid other streams (up to and including spamming the n-word in the chat of 2017's Awesome Games Done Quick charity marathon) and stream snipe Forsen relentlessly. Over the years, Forsen has gained a reputation for being permissive of a lot of this—or at least not going out of his way to stop it—though he’s tried to shut down more severe incidents like the AGDQ thing.

“Creators should consider the consequences of their statements and the actions of their audiences?” he asked on stream yesterday while reading Twitch’s new guidelines. “No, no, no, no. You cannot have both. I can watch what I say; I cannot watch what my community does. Are you fucking serious?”

Advertisement

Seconds later, one of his viewers used a text-to-speech program, which viewers can type messages into if they make a donation, to complain on stream about “titty streamers.” Forsen sighed.

“I might be banned soon,” he said. “Apparently.”

As the stream went on, Forsen reined in his initial reaction, saying that he believes he’s made a good effort to quell his community when it’s gotten out of hand. His chat didn’t entirely agree, with some posting the kappa emote, which implies irony.

Advertisement

“I don’t know why you’re kappa-ing,” Forsen said.

Forsen eventually came to the conclusion that he’s “semi in the crosshair,” but not as much as other streamers like his friend Greekgodx, who has a tendency to pick fights with streamers and whose audience does things like jokingly threaten Twitch employees. Later last night, Greekgodx joined Forsen on stream as they watched a video of Twitch staff hosting a town hall about the new policies.

Advertisement

The pair acknowledged that some things are probably gonna have to change if they want to stay on Twitch. Both resolved to delete old footage of streams that might break the rules, something Twitch has encouraged streamers to do before the new policies go into effect on Monday, February 19. Both also said they might have to cut down on “banter” and using other streamers as consistent butts of jokes, as that could be considered harassment.

“I’m not going to another platform,” said Forsen, after the town hall video concluded. “Fuck that.”

Advertisement

“Monday is a new day, I’m gonna be a new Greek, smiley faces and all that bullshit,” said Greekgodx, who has 301,431 followers on Twitch.

In the end, Forsen remained concerned, saying that while he’ll need to talk with Twitch staff before he’s certain about where he stands, some things about his stream and community will probably have to change. For streamers like Forsen and Greekgodx, who make a living off another company’s platform even though they are not employees of that company, continuing to pay the bills means playing by the rules.

Advertisement

“You guys are probably pretty hated by Twitch, I’m not gonna lie,” Forsen said to his chat, who pride themselves on being at the vanguard of “edgy” (which sometimes means racist, sexist, or homophobic) memes, and who’ve gotten Forsen suspended from Twitch with questionable stunts in the past.

“Twitch might not give a single fuck whether or not you’re memeing,” Forsen said at another point during the stream. Still, he believes that his community is bigger than ever, and he still thinks that Twitch will hesitate to permanently ban streamers who pull big audiences.

Advertisement

His chat responded with “kill yourself” jokes and nazi references, among other things. Forsen sighed again.

“Guys, you’re gonna get me in trouble,” he said.

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.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Forsen’s claim that “I can watch what I say; I cannot watch what my community does” is valid up to a point.

No entertainer can ever be held fully responsible for the actions of one or more members of their audience; people are strange, and they take material meant for entertainment as a foundational/guiding principle of their lives far too often.

That said, words have power, and the promulgation of certain attitudes (carried by offering up certain phrases, words, or “jokes” as if they are funny or harmless when their historical antecedents are well known) by a popular entertainer can make it seem like those attitudes are acceptable or normal, even if they are meant in jest.

As an example, Jackass was a brand-new show when I was in undergrad. Each episode was preceded by a lengthy warning that essentially amounted out to “don’t be a dumbass and try this shit at home—also, don’t record yourself being a dumbass and send it to us hoping for fame, because we won’t watch your dumbass tapes, dumbasses.”

That didn’t stop a few folks from trying their own versions of the stunts they saw on Jackass, forgetting that the Jackass crew definitely had legal, medical, and stunt crews around them at all times.

Same thing applies to the promulgation of ideas that are, at their core, hateful. When a streamer’s audience spams the n-word in a charity chat, that isn’t necessarily the streamer’s fault, but it may be an outgrowth of that streamer’s online persona/humor expressing itself through a portion of their audience that believes the persona “makes this okay,” and so they go out and spread the vileness in earnest, rather than understanding that it was all meant to be a joke.

...alternatively, some streamers really are racist, misogynistic, homophobic shitheads who’ve acquired a platform for their invective, and have been deliberately spreading their shit whilst trying to hide behind the bulwark of “but it’s all entertainment.”

Whatever the case, the fact is that whether they asked for it or not, any public figure effectively becomes a touchpoint for their audience—and some folks are going to take the wrong (or right, depending on the streamer and their message) message from their time with that figure, and will turn around and amplify that message in a way that may well be harmful to others.

So, TL;DR: If you watch your words, you’ll find that most of your audience will also watch theirs. There will always be assholes, and no one should be punished for having an asshole or two in their fanbase. However, if a sizeable percentage of your fans are assholes, that may be reflective of your material—and it’s something to consider moving forward.