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Twitch suspends streaming for new users as it fights off Artifact trolls

New anti-trolling measures cap off a worrisome weekend for Twitch

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Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Twitch says it’s suspending new users’ ability to stream on the platform as it tries to fight off trolls who bombarded the site over Memorial Day weekend. It all began when some streamers joked about how little activity the corner of Twitch dedicated to Valve’s card game Artifact was seeing, leading to a fresh flurry of Artifact streams.

But almost none of those streams actually featured the game.

Trolls began to stream their own content on Artifact channels, often attempting to jokingly disguise their streams as “Artifact DLC” or “in queue for an Artifact” game. The joke quickly spiraled out of control due to a lack of initial moderation, and throughout most of the extended holiday weekend, the Artifact directory was a nightmare zone of the worst content the internet has to offer. Dozens of Twitch users streamed pirated media, racist propaganda, hentai, hardcore pornography, depictions of self-mutilation, anime marathons, experimental memes, and in at least one instance, the recent Christchurch, New Zealand terrorist attack.

Twitch finally addressed the chaos on Tuesday, May 28.

“Over the weekend we became aware of a number of accounts targeting the ‘Artifact’ game directory to share content that grossly violates our terms of service,” Twitch said in a statement. “Our investigations uncovered that the majority of accounts that shared and viewed the content were automated accounts. We are working with urgency to remove the offending content and suspend all accounts engaged in this behavior.

“In addition, we have temporarily suspended the ability for new creators to stream. We take these violations very seriously and are taking measures to prevent this kind of coordinated activity on our service in the future.”

Despite these measures, checking the Artifact section on Twitch on Tuesday evening — over an hour after this statement was posted — shows plenty of non-Artifact content. There are currently over 11,000 viewers in the directory and dozens of streamers are broadcasting a music video of a baby seal.

The battle for the Artifact section is a concerning one, as Twitch hosts many categories for games with low viewer and population counts. Twitch will need to figure out a solution for this issue that can be applied site-wide in the future, as it seems likely that Artifact won’t be the last time that malicious actors take the opportunity to use the streaming platform for the wrong reasons.

“We’re very sorry for the inconvenience,” Twitch said on Twitter. “The safety of our community is our top priority and we’re doing everything we can to restore all access as quickly as possible. We will provide an update when we’re able to do so.”