Twitch will ban people for harassment, even when it doesn’t happen on the site

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitch will now ban users who harass members of its community — even when that harassment takes place off Twitch. The streaming platform announced a major expansion of its off-service misconduct policy today that allows it to take action against users who mistreat people regardless of where it happens, whether it’s offline or on another social platform.

The new policy splits misconduct into two categories: category one, which applies to harassment that takes place on and off Twitch, and category two, which applies only to harassment off Twitch. The first category hasn’t changed. If Twitch is reviewing a harassment report about something that happened on-stream, it will take into account related harassment on Facebook.

The second category, however, is new. Now, if Twitch finds out about “serious offenses that pose a substantial safety risk to the Twitch community,” it’ll take action, even when those offenses took place entirely off the platform. The company is currently defining “serious offenses” as incidents of violent extremism, credible threats of mass violence, membership in a known hate group, sexual exploitation of children, and nonconsensual sexual activities, among others.

Twitch is bringing on a third-party law firm to assist with off-platform investigations. “These investigations are vastly more complex and can take significant time and resources to resolve,” the company wrote in a blog post. “For behaviors that take place off Twitch, we must rely more heavily on law enforcement and other services to share relevant evidence before we can move forward.” A spokesperson for the company declined to give the name of the law firm.

The move comes after Twitch overhauled its harassment policy last December. The changes included stricter rules around sexual harassment and a ban on promoting hateful opinions under the pretense of comedy.

In June 2020, the company faced a reckoning around sexual harassment and assault, with multiple women coming forward to say it hadn’t done enough to protect them. While some of those incidents took place on the streaming platform, others happened off-site but involved members of the Twitch community. One streamer told The Verge that an adult began sending them sexual messages on Twitch when they were 15.

In its announcement today, Twitch said it is focusing on “the most egregious types of physical and psychological harm” to start but implied it could expand the off-service harassment policy later on.

The company also said it will suspend users who submit a large number of fake reports.

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