After a day of silence, the CEO of livestreaming website Twitch has apologised for the poor handling of a recent controversy involving staff members, emoticons, and a number of people from the streaming community.
"We'd like to repair the damage that has been done to the relationship between Twitch and the Speedrunning community," Emmett Shear, CEO and co-founder of Twitch, wrote on Reddit today.
He's referring to a recent debacle where a staff member called 'Horror' uploaded an emoticon to Twitch. Some Twitch users (in particular, some speedrunners), Redditors and neoGAFfers allege that it was an emoticon that depicted the 'Fursona' of Horror's boyfriend. While Twitch does not acknowledge this outright — they call the emoticon's existence a "personal favour" — based on threads around the web and a number of emails sent to Kotaku, it's clear that the community perceived nepotism from Twitch staff. Normally, this isn't the way emoticons are added to Twitch.
Horror then went on to remove a number of emoticons from Twitch on the grounds that Twitch does not allow copyrighted images — except that at least one of these emoticons was under Creative Commons, and was therefore available for use. This oversight, in conjunction with the other emoticon-related favour, resulted in a number of unhappy users who thought the way staff was acting wasn't quite fair.
Backlash ensued. Some members of the community merely discussed recent happenings, while others titled their streams with demands that Horror step down ("Remove Horror" is the phrase most cited in emails sent to Kotaku). Some users took to harassing Horror and other staff members from Twitch. And naturally, some folks were banned as a result of these activities — but even Twitch acknowledges that it went too far (you can see a partial list of the people who were banned here — some of these folks rely on Twitch for a source of income). It doesn't help that a volunteer Twitch admin even asked Reddit admins to censor discussion of this controversy on Reddit (though to be clear, this wasn't something that Twitch asked this admin to do).
"Harassment and/or defamation of any user on the site, including a staff member, is clearly against the Twitch terms of service," Shear wrote on Reddit. "Some of the banned user's remarks clearly cross this line, and those users were correctly banned. Other users made more innocuous remarks and should not have been banned. Horror was too close to this situation and should have recused himself in favour of less conflicted moderators. Being personally involved led to very poor decisions being made."
"The NightLight emoticon should not have been approved as a global emoticon and has been removed by request of the channel owner," Shear said.
Shear also outlined a number of things that Twitch hopes to do moving forward as a result of this controversy:
- Twitch users who were unfairly banned due to this incident are being systematically unbanned today.
- The Twitch partners who were banned due to this incident have been provisionally unbanned pending investigation.
- The NightLight emoticon has been removed.
- Disciplinary action is being taken with regard to Twitch staff and members of the volunteer admin team who overstepped their authority.
- Due to this incident, we are embarking on a full review of Twitch admin policies and community moderation procedures.
- Horror has voluntarily stepped back from public facing moderation work at Twitch, as right now pretty much every moderation issue will be tainted by this episode.
You can read the apology in full here.