Twitch, the live streaming site loved by video gamers and turned into a major Internet communications service, said Thursday it had created new rules to deal with blatant providers of misinformation.
Recognizing the real damage that can be caused by its rapidly growing influence, the company said it would ban “harmful disinformation superspreaders that constantly share misinformation on or outside of Twitch.”
Twitch will only remove channels that meet a handful of criteria. To violate the new policy, users must continually share harmful misinformation that has been widely debunked, the company said, adding that it “chosen these criteria because together they pose the greatest risk of harm, including inciting to real damage.”
The site “is taking this precaution and is updating our policies to ensure these disinformation superspreaders will not find a home in our service,” Angela Hession, Twitch’s vice president of trust and security, said in a statement.
Twitch started out 15 years ago as a small start-up called Justin.tv. It was acquired by Amazon in 2014 and is widely used by video game players and major internet platform where celebrity creators and common people broadcast every moment of their daily life.
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According to company data, about 31 million people visit Twitch every day and more than eight million are broadcast monthly. Most of the content is associated with video games, with streams on popular titles such as Call of Duty and Fortnite.
The company took the new policy as a step to anticipate the wave of misinformation that could hit the platform, rather than as a response to current issues.
Twitch has argued that misinformation on its platform is less of a problem than on other social platforms, in part because the lengthy but fleeting nature of live streams makes it harder for untruths on Twitch to go viral and go viral. The new policy will initially affect fewer than 100 channels, the company said.
But disinformation experts it consulted, such as the Global Disinformation Index, an impartial team of researchers, told Twitch that a handful of users could explain a preponderance of online lies.
Misinformation covered by the new policy includes content related to dangerous medical treatments, lies about Covid-19 vaccines, falsehoods “promoted by conspiracy networks associated with violence”, content that “undermines the integrity of any social or political process.” ” – including lies about election fraud – and content that can harm people during emergencies such as wildfires and shootings.
The policy will also apply to Russian state-controlled media outlets that spread misinformation, Twitch said, adding that it had found only one such channel so far, with very little activity.
Twitch generally has stricter rules than other social media platforms about what opinions users can express. But in 2020, after platforms like YouTube and Twitter curtailed far-right conspiracy theorists promoting false theories about the presidential election, Twitch saw an increase in such streamers, using it as a new place to make money and spread lies.
Supporters of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory — which claims that former President Donald J. Trump is fighting a cabal of Democratic pedophiles — were particularly well represented among this group of several dozen Twitch users.
In April, Twitch told DailyExpertNews that it was developing a disinformation policy. It said it would “take action against users who violate our community policies against harmful content that encourages or encourages self-destructive behavior, harassment, or attempts or threats to physically harm others, including through misinformation.”
Also last year, the company announced a policy that would allow it to suspend the accounts of people who have committed crimes or serious offenses in real life or on other online platforms, including those who have engaged in violent extremism or are members of a hate group.
However, QAnon content was still allowed, as Twitch said at the time it did not consider QAnon a hate group. A Twitch spokeswoman said the new policy included QAnon as a conspiracy theory promoting violence.
Some channels have also spread health-related conspiracy theories: one belonging to a man who goes by Zak Paine, with more than 17,000 followers, pushes debunked theories about vaccines and cancer, and also promotes the QAnon conspiracy theory.
In one stream, he and a guest encouraged his viewers to drink a bleach that claims to cure cancer, but which the Food and Drug Administration has said is dangerous. Other streamers, such as Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman, have fought to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Minutes after the new policy went into effect, Mrs. Maras-Lindeman and Mr. Paine’s transmitters disappeared. Mr Paine, who was live streaming at the time, was cut short in the middle of a recorded ad. They were replaced with a message: “This channel is currently unavailable due to a violation of Twitch’s Community Guidelines or Terms of Service.”
Neither of them was immediately available for comment.