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Twitch’s new sexual content guidelines are head-scratchingly bad

Twitch today unveiled new, allegedly clearer guidelines on harassment and sexual content. While the new rules have a positive sheen, they don’t seem like they’re going to help — they’re almost as confusing as before.

Twitch says it’s introducing stricter guidelines on so-called “sexual content,” which is forbidden on the site due to the large age range of viewers. This seems fair — I’ve seen my share of viewers whom I personally know to be younger than 18 sneak into streams with “18+” in the title, and the streamer and moderators either could or would do nothing to guard against them.

But given the kind of content you’ll find in popular games these days, it’s strange that, according to a Twitch spokesperson, there will be no change to Twitch’s policy on nudity in games. For example, I, the streamer, would not be allowed to offer my audience “access to prohibited sexual content such as ‘lewds’” outside of Twitch under these new rules. But I could still fire up Grand Theft Auto V and stream my character getting a dance from a stripper — in first person, no less. Twitch’s rules against that are that streamers should “only spend as much time as needed in the area to make progress,” which seems equally as vague as the rules Twitch is trying to clear up.

The new rules say they’ll take a more overall view of the channel when determining the content — the streamer’s camera angle, overlay, moderator commands, and attire. Of the latter, they say, “Attire in gaming streams, most at-home streams, and all profile/channel imagery should be appropriate for a public street, mall, or restaurant.”

That seems a bit suspect to me — suppose I want to game in my pajamas? They’re perfectly modest and innocent, but I wouldn’t wear them to a restaurant. The Twitch spokesperson told me they don’t want to see anyone harassed for how they look over this rule, but it seems that, by putting the language that way, they’re making it explicit that the moderators can judge streamers by how they look.

While it sounds nice that Twitch will take a streamer’s surroundings and attitude into consideration before making a judgement, it’s a little too big brother-ish for them to police streamers based on what they’re wearing.

Twitch’s new rules will go into effect on February 19, and that streamers should jettison any VODs or clips that violate the new guidelines before that time.

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