The conversation around harassment and toxicity in some of the biggest gaming communities has amplified in recent weeks. As companies like Blizzard and Twitch try to figure out how to rid their games and platforms of the worst offenders, Mixer is being highlighted as a company doing things right.
Mixer is Microsoft’s streaming platform — and competition to Twitch. It became the center of conversation last week after people on Twitter began pointing to the company’s strict, transparent outlines of what behavior is considered toxic or harassing. The rules aren’t new, but the platform’s clear outline of what it considers harassment became a new example in how should handle vicious communities.
Mixer’s specific rules on harassment state that the following behavior can result in bans for streamers:
- Using clips, audio files, or out of context quotes to mock or make fun of another community member
- Creating multiple accounts to evade channel bans
- Calling a streamer a “cam-girl” or other derivatives referring to physical features
- Submitting false reports against a streamer
- This includes filing repeat reports on the same streamer/activity after the C.A.T team states the streamer is not violating the rules
- Telling a user to “kill yourself”
- Repeated sexual comments after the streamer states such comments are unwelcome.
Mixer co-founder James Boehm told Polygon that having a transparent set of rules about what constitutes harassment and hate speech was part of his founding philosophy. It’s a word that often gets brought up in complaints against Twitch for its erratic banning policy, or YouTube’s indecipherable policy on what is and isn’t acceptable. Boehm said that being transparent with a community is the only way to build a good environment for users. Part of the reason Boehm believes Mixer doesn’t get as much flack for its stricter rules is because the company introduced the community guidelines from the very beginning.
“When we started Mixer, working with streamers and working with content creators, one of their key feedback points was wanting to know what’s going on with the platform,” Boehm said. “‘We want to understand the rules, we want to understand what we can and can’t do.’ When we took to drafting our conduct and terms of service, we wanted to make it really clear what was okay and what was not. That way we could build a community that everyone could partake in; they knew the rules, knew how to behave.
“That’s translated into a community that has grown and become increasingly positive, which is something people are noticing, as we saw last week.”
Multiple threads on different streaming subreddits feature testimonies from Twitch streamers who decided to give Mixer a try and found it to be an overall positive experience. One Mixer streamer, who goes by LeoGameMagic on Reddit, wrote about his experience. He’s been streaming on Twitch for just over a year, but decided to give Mixer a try after a colleague told him about the platform.
“I streamed on Mixer last night for about 4 hours,” LeoGameMagic wrote. “I played Monster Hunter: World open beta. I can say I very much liked the experience bar some trolls — I had to mod a couple of people QUICK lol. Some of my friends from Twitch dropped in to watch and soon we had around 25-30 viewers all interacting. We ended up having around 30+ followers. It was all very pleasant.”
Replies to his post all contain similar appreciation from former small-time Twitch streamers who jumped over to Mixer.
Mixer’s positivity could be attributed to its smaller size.Mixer has 10 million active users month; a number that pales in comparison to YouTube’s 1.5 billion active monthly users and Twitch’s more than 100 million monthly active users. It’s nearly impossible for YouTube to keep an eye on all of its users, which is partly why the company relies so heavily on machine learning algorithms and is currently building a 10,000 person moderation team. Twitch has similar issues, and it heavily relies on users to report infractions.
“There are no time restrictions regarding when a report can be made, so if you find older content that you believe violates our community guidelines, please use the report button on the respective channel page,” a Twitch representative told Polygon.
Mixer is aware of the size discrepancy in its audiences, but believes it will grow in time. Mixer’s director of marketing, Jenn McCoy, says the platform isn’t actively trying to compete with YouTube and Twitch’s audience.
“We don’t look at it as how do we beat one of our competitors,” McCoy said. “We think there’s room for growth for Mixer, Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and individual creators.”
Mixer isn’t just trying to build its audience, but the company is also looking to add streamers to its partner program. Mixer has a top-tier program for some of the platform’s most popular creators, like Twitch and YouTube, that allows people to earn monetization from their streams and videos. Personalities who make serious dough are being eyed in wake of Logan Paul, one of YouTube’s most notorious creators who was dropped from Google Preferred and YouTube’s AdSense programs after a series of disturbing, offensive videos.
Bohem tells Polygon that creators on Mixer who earn top dollar are vetted by the company and must uphold certain behavior to keep their monetization privileges.
“We set the expectation of how we want our partners to act in the community, and how we wanted them to be a good representation and be able to build a certain community,” Bohem said. “Depending on [partners] off-platform behavior, it could affect [their] partner status.”
Off-platform behavior is the biggest conversation happening in the streaming industry right now. Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan said the moderation team will look at YouTube videos to see if players are being toxic and take action; Twitch announced it will take off-platform harassment directed at Twitch streamers as a violation of its own code of conduct and act accordingly. Mixer’s own rules state it will not enforce its rules on what’s said off-platform, which includes Discord, Skype and Twitter as a few examples, the company asks that Mixer streamers “treat others in the community the same way you would treat them on Mixer.”
Bohem confirms that action won’t be taken against Mixer streamers who exhibit negative off-platform behavior (think of a common troll or jerk on Twitter), but it can impact who Mixer decides to let monetize their videos. Bohem’s decision is effectively saying the company won’t turn anyone away from streaming if they’re participating in vulgar behavior elsewhere, those aren’t the people they wan’t representing Mixer.
YouTube and Twitch are beginning to do similar things. YouTube is changing how videos that run through Google’s Preferred program are given affiliate status; all videos from creators in the program will now receive human review. But the biggest question is what happens if and when Mixer’s audience continues to grow at a substantial rate. What happens when Mixer gets too big? That’s exactly what happened to YouTube and Twitch.
Like Twitch, Mixer doesn’t have anyone who watches every stream. Mixer relies on its moderation team and reports from viewers. Bohem said the company will continue to invest in moderators and a report team to ensure the community remains as positive as possible. The goal, Bohem added, is to continue being as transparent as possible so Mixer newcomers and veteran streamers alike are aware of the guidelines that govern behavior on the platform.
It appears the era of free for all in online streaming is slowly coming to an end.