Over the last few days, Twitch streamers from marginalized groups have taken to Twitter to appeal to the Amazon-owned company to start doing something meaningful about the serious issues of harassment on the platform. In response, Twitch put up a Twitter thread saying it will engage in “open and ongoing dialogue.” All together: Siiiiiggghhhh.
When your user base is screaming in frustration at you, bellowing their years-long, years-ignored complaints about the abysmal nature of your systems for protecting streamers, suggesting the idea of “ongoing dialogue” is ironically an awful lot like saying you’ve not been listening. At this point what Twitch streamers want is not simply more conversation but rather solid, meaningful changes, changes like having new accounts require a phone number or the option for automatic blocks against those using hate speech.
It’s so galling when such human complaints are met by such inhuman management guff like, “You’re asking us to do better, and we know we need to do more to address these issues.” Empty words, meaningless fluff that pretends to be acknowledging something while offering zip.
Kotaku reached out to Twitch for comment but did not receive an immediate reply.
The Twitter thread goes on to not-quite-identify a “vulnerability in our proactive filters” that Twitch has “rolled out an update to close this gap” which means it will now “better detect hate speech in chat.” I mean, maybe this is a really good thing? But good gravy, there’s no way to know from this impenetrable garble. Maybe it will block that hate speech? Or add clap emojis when it identifies it? We’ll likely never know.
Twitch then goes on to offer more vague allusions to not quite the things people have been asking for. While, as Kotaku reported, streamers wanted seemingly simple solutions—like requiring phone numbers when creating accounts or not allowing new accounts to use chat—Twitch promised, “channel-level ban evasion detection and account verification improvements,” which would come “as soon as possible.” Then, in its most tone-deaf move, the company follows up these ambiguous promises with a link to its “existing tools,” i.e. the ones that everyone is imploring them to realize are nowhere near fit for purpose.
But, you’ll be relieved to learn, its “work is never done,” and our input is “essential as we try to build a safer Twitch.” Before, incredibly, once again saying that it will be “reaching out to community members to learn more about their experiences.” Twitch! That’s what’s already happening. You could maybe instead... start listening?
Yes, of course it’s good that Twitch is responding at all. But it’s so frustrating that corporations still cannot understand the inappropriateness of corporate responses to real people’s exasperation and desperation. At this point, what people want to read is a normal, human reply. One that says, “Yes, you’re right, we’ve been a bit shit at getting this sorted. But we’re on it now. We’ve read what you’re all saying, and so much of it is right. Of course we should be making it more difficult to create accounts—we’re working on that now, and will get it implemented as soon as we can. And of course it should be easier and more effective to opt in to blocking those using hate speech. We will keep you up-to-date as we fix all of this.”
See, it’s not hard. Contrition is not the same as opening a company up to litigation! Twitch hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s just not done an awful lot of stuff right. It’s offered something that’s crap and now have the opportunity to make it less crap, and the first step in doing that is not to put out woolly, confusing statements, and ultimately empty and meaningless platitudes.