Twitch’s newest social feature, Pulse, is essentially a Facebook or Twitter feed tailored exclusively for the company’s millions of streamers and viewers.
But like Twitter quickly realized — and has not been able to solve in the 11 years it has been around — having a platform that thrives on being able to interact with whoever you want, and essentially say whatever you want, will result in harassment that must be addressed.
Solving a known problem
The Pulse feature is described by Twitch as, “a place where streamers can post and engage with all of their followers and the greater Twitch community right from the Twitch front page,” essentially promoting a more intimate, ongoing connection between talent and fans.
If the concept seems similar, that’s because it’s the same way Twitter used to describe itself in the company’s early days, when it used the promise of being able to interact directly with celebrities as a selling point.
Twitch was never immune to harassment and, like Twitter, it has been an issue the company has had to contend with for years. The level of harassment, racism and sexual aggression streamers and viewers faced on the platform became so high that game publisher Blizzard teamed up with Twitch to develop a pilot program to help curb the abuse.
Opening up more avenues for public discussion means more opportunity for harassment to continue and spread, and no new social networks can claim they’re ignorant of the risks involved with this sort of venture. Twitch is launching Pulse long after flaws in Twitter policy have been pointed out and discussed at length.
This is what Twitch needs to do in order to avoid the same growing pains:
Moderation isn’t just helpful, it should be mandatory
It’s impossible for Twitch to moderate every single social stream that exists on the site. On the other hand, Twitch can create a zero-tolerance policy system for any kind of harassment, bullying, racism or sexual aggression on the site and give streamers and viewers a way to report such behavior.
This has been Twitter’s number one issue for years: It doesn’t know how to properly respond to and address harassment on the site, even when it’s brought to the company’s attention.
Twitter can spend days investigating each complaint, and little to nothing happens if the tweet is deleted or doesn’t fit Twitter’s very specific guidelines for abuse. It wasn’t until Saturday Night Live actress Leslie Jones was the victim of an organized attack on Twitter that the company seemed willing to take any further steps forward.
Twitter recently confirmed that users would have the ability to essentially mute other users with egg profile photos — a common occurrence among troll accounts quickly set up for the purpose of harassment — and introduced new reporting measures to help identify and remove abusive users.
Twitch can’t wait the same amount of time to offer the same level of tools and protections. If Twitch wants Pulse to succeed where Twitter has failed so often, it needs to make the safety of its users its top priority and set the minimum standard at where Twitter is now, not where it began.
According to the company’s blog, “Channel editors and moderators have the ability to delete posts and comments for channels that they are attached to. Streamers also have additional controls that allow them to control who can comment on their posts — the current options available are friends and subscribers.”
But self-moderation can only go so far, and leaving it up to one streamer or channel doesn’t prevent that abusive user from visiting multiple channels. Twitch might have a plan in place to deal with this issue, but if so it hasn’t been clearly communicated.
It’s not enough to just provide a platform for people to engage, not anymore. Twitch has changed the way video games are shared with others and has become the most popular destination for streaming, but as Select All’s Max Read wrote about Twitter and Facebook, “If you lead a revolution, at some point you’re going to have to govern.” Twitch can’t wait until the issue gets worse before protecting its viewers and talent.