clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A photo of the Twitch logo at an event booth Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Filed under:

Twitch’s ‘artistic nudity’ policy rolled back days after it was introduced

‘Upon reflection, we have decided that we went too far with this change’

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 very quickly rolled back its recent updates to its sexual content policy. On Dec. 15, Twitch CEO Dan Clancy reverted some of its new rules — specifically the ones concerning “artistic nudity” on the platform. Artists initially excited about the policy told Polygon they’re confused and disappointed by the rollback.

Twitch originally updated its sexual content policy just days before, on Dec. 13. This update was seemingly in response to outcry over the “topless meta,” where streamers implied nudity by framing a camera such that they looked topless, with the frame cutting off at chest level, above the nipple. Twitch clarified on Dec. 13 in its original statement that this was OK, as long as streamers did not engage in overtly sexual gestures. Twitch streamer and OnlyFans model Morgpie was banned by Twitch after one such stream, but she clarified on X (formerly Twitter) that she had been banned for “off-screen [boob] clapping,” rather than the “topless meta.”

Also on Dec. 13, Twitch announced that art with “a focus on fictionalized (drawn, animated, or sculpted) sexual body parts regardless of gender,” like live nude figure drawing, was also now allowed on the platform. Still, it had to be labeled correctly under “Sexual Themes” — which would keep it off of Twitch’s homepage — and couldn’t contain “fictionalized sexual acts or masturbation.” Artists were thrilled.

One Twitch artist, who goes by Fuululuu online, told Polygon they were relieved when Twitch had initially expanded its sexual content policy for artists. “This [terms of service] change impacts artists like me who have consistently felt like they had a shadow over them as they tried to create not knowing how far is too far,” Fuululuu said. “When drawing a piece, usually you have to start with a nude base to understand how the clothing falls. Was that breaking ToS? Who knows? Because previously, the Twitch terms of service was not clear on what cases of nudity were actually a ban-able offense.”

Hours after Fuululuu spoke to Polygon, the rules were reversed, with “depictions of real or fictional nudity” no longer permitted on Twitch “regardless of the medium.” In a follow-up conversation, Fuululuu said they were disappointed to see the news. “Artists are not taken seriously in many spaces IRL and online,” they said. “Artistic nudity is necessary to the creative process, but people immediately go right to sexualization and fetish. This ruins everything for everyone.”

Clancy said, in his Dec. 15 post about the policy change, that there were some streamers who broke the rules, and Twitch worked quickly to remove that content. But there was a lot of content that was within the rules that was still “met with community concern.” Several Twitch artists who spoke to Polygon reported being banned on Dec. 14, despite following the rules.

“I’ve been studying figure drawing for 15 years now and [have] been streaming art since 2018,” Twitch artist Sam the Silkie said. “I was always a little frustrated I could never do studies on Twitch, but understood and respected the rule. I was SO excited to finally be able to sketch with no worries.”

Sam the Silkie suggested it was a mass reporting campaign that led to these artists being banned. Some of these streamers have already had their accounts reinstated, but with the prohibitive rules back in place, it’s more confusing than ever.

“A lot of queer/women art streamers were the ones mass reported, and with Twitch already having a history of stuff like this with hate raids, I’d like to see them continue to make this space safe for us,” Sam the Silkie said. “It feels like the way this was handled goes against that, and friends of mine are totally avoiding doing art streams for a while since they feel this is gonna bring hate raids up again.”

The company is working on updates to the Community Guidelines, which will come in a few days. Twitch representative Elizabeth Busby provided the following statement to Polygon:

We’re reviewing recent enforcement decisions to make sure that users who created content allowed under our prior update weren’t improperly penalized. Where needed, we are overturning enforcements and removing them from the account’s history. We recognize that, although we didn’t intend to enable some of the content created, those users were attempting to follow the rules we’d laid out.

To be clear, as noted in our blog, some users created content that clearly violated that initial policy update. These enforcements won’t be reversed.

Bubsy added that the policy, as originally written, “wasn’t being interpreted the way we’d intended.” She said: “Our teams worked quickly to make the necessary updates/changes, which we walk through in our blog. Community feedback, as always, played a role in that process.”

The Dec. 15 policy update also cited the possible impact of artificial intelligence. “Upon reflection, we have decided that we went too far with this change,” Clancy wrote in the post. “Digital depictions of nudity present a unique challenge — AI can be used to create realistic images, and it can be hard to distinguish between digital art and photography.”

Clancy continued: “While I wish we would have predicted this outcome, part of our job is to make adjustments that serve the community. I apologize for the confusion that this update has caused.”

But now, the art community is more confused than ever — particularly over the whiplash from the very short amount of time between Twitch updating and then reverting its policies. On top of that, these artists are even more disappointed that people who pushed the boundaries of the rules spoiled it for everyone.