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Twitch bans Confederate flag, racist emote usage in new conduct policy

There are new rules for harassment and sexual harassment, too

twitch logo Image: Twitch
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Twitch is updating its Hateful Conduct and Harassment guidelines to “better protect the community,” the company announced Wednesday. The new rules will go into effect on Jan. 22, 2021, for content created on or after that date.

The new policy is specifically “clearer and more consistent” in its position against hate and harassment on the platform. “Hateful conduct and harassment have always been prohibited, but we’ve added more detail explaining the behaviors that fall into these categories,” Twitch said in a blog post.

The new rules come after a months-long research period, Twitch said, with consultation from industry experts.

Twitch is dividing its policy into three separate categories: harassment, hateful conduct, and sexual harassment. In a blog post, the company called out specific behaviors that are not tolerated for each category. This includes more specific examples of what’s against the rules, like “inciting malicious raids of another person’s social media profiles off Twitch,” or displaying the Confederate flag.

Similarly, Twitch said it will crack down on people using emotes inappropriately, which has long been a problem on the streaming site.

“Emotes are an important part of how we communicate with one another on Twitch, but they can be used maliciously,” Twitch said in its hateful conduct guidelines. “So emote combinations, even without additional text used in chat, will be held to this policy.”

Twitch has a problem with viewers using emotes in racist ways. It’s an issue Twitch has struggled to contain for years, as people abuse emotes in chat — specifically, by spamming global emotes of Black streamers, like “TriHard” or “Cmonbruh,” as a stand-in for racist content that would explicitly break Twitch’s rules. In 2018, prominent Twitch streamer Félix “xQc” Lengyel was fined and suspended by the Overwatch League for using the TriHard emote in a racist way; he received no disciplinary action from Twitch. At that time, Twitch put the onus on streamers to moderate their Twitch chat.

A Twitch representative told Polygon that it likely won’t suspend users for using a single emote; instead, the Hateful Conduct portion of the updated policy specifically calls out “emote combinations that dehumanize or perpetuate negative stereotypes and/or memes” as bannable offenses.

Regarding its new policies, Twitch will hold a series of discussions and FAQ sessions in the lead up to Jan. 22. Full details are available on the Twitch blog.

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