Harassment Livestreams On Twitch Are Multiplying And Easy To Find

Earlier this week Kotaku UK ran an article from Charley Hodson about the sexual harassment she recently faced on Twitch while livestreaming in the site's IRL category. Everyone seems to agree there's a problem, but it's not so easy to find consensus on how platforms like Twitch should be tackling it. Given the focus of many online platforms on creating automated mod tools, we thought we'd run an experiment.

How easy is it for a human to track down Twitch accounts that either focus on, or regularly engage in, verifiable instances of targeted harassment on the platform?

As it turns out, incredibly easy. And that's without any access to Twitch's support accounts or report logs.

We spent 90 minutes looking for harassment and were able to identify and document 25 accounts on Twitch that regularly engage in harassment of other users, either via in-stream chat or by re-streaming people's livestreams and commenting on them. Every one of these accounts is still active at the time of publishing, though we've passed our findings on to Twitch support.

How did we find so many so quickly?

Depressingly, most of these harassment-focused accounts were found by looking at Twitter users who had tweeted at Twitch's official support account about their harassment. These users received no public response, and their harassers remain on Twitch. People were giving Twitch the exact information we used, and within minutes of investigating each case we'd found clear proof of what they were flagging.

Twitch archives the chat on livestreams. If you know when harassment took place, you can find the accounts behind it from the chat. From there, you can check each user's page and further evidence of their behaviour is right in front of you, particularly for those users livestreaming their harassment of others.

In 90 minutes we found users threatening to rape women, users mocking disabilities, users throwing around homophobic and transphobic slurs, users spamming sexually explicit comments at streamers, users threatening to doxx streamers mid-stream, and users harassing the followers of streamers to quit their channel.

Of the 25 accounts we found, seven of them had engaged in livestreaming their harassment of other Twitch users on the IRL section of the site. Of those users, all of them had streamed harassment since the start of August. Most of these channels featured between five and ten videos in the IRL section of the site. It's all still available for the public to watch.

People often discuss human moderation as if it's some impossible task, like the sheer volume of traffic that a service like Twitch handles is too much for even an army to handle. Is that really true? It's not Kotaku UK's job to moderate Twitch, but in 90 minutes we've seemingly done more to look into information sent to the company's support account over the last few weeks than anyone at Twitch itself.

We contacted Twitch earlier today for comment, before publication of the Charleyy Hodson story, and have subsequently followed-up with calls. So far the best we've got back is a brief holding statement promising a comment at a later time.

Twitch does have a report function on its site. It does seem to respond, sometimes, to these reports -- though in the case of Ms. Hodson's harasser, the account was suspended and then, bizarrely, re-instated. This all suggests that Twitch needs to start taking harassment in general, and in particular the livestreaming of it, much more seriously.

Responding to users in a timely manner would be a start. We found these harassers easily and without any access to Twitch's own support tools, and weeks later their accounts are still active in every case. Which suggests, frankly, that dealing with this problem is not a priority for the streaming giant.


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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour from the British isles.


Comments

    yep lets start busting kids that inject these majiwana's and hatred into society

    /dry humour

      That will be the last time he bangs my mum

        oh please downvote.... kids will just create a new account anyway if they are banned

        logged in just to restore balance.

    Nice work Kotaku! Keep the pressure up on Twitch.

    I highly appreciate the effort to shine a light on abuse on Twitch. It reminds me not to take abuse on the internet as granted.

    Listen SNOWFLAKES, if you don't like it then BAN them from chatroll, and while your at it don't dedicated so much of your time analyzing their comments! that is STUPID.

    BUT NO, they will continue to sit there reading the abuse and being triggered.....

      Using easily available tools to actually moderate the chat roll? Madness! Madness I say!

      You seem to be quite sensitive to people taking issue with being harassed. Do you have any derogatory words for those doing the harassing at all?

        What would be the point?
        By throwing derogatory words at the harassers I would be no better than them and would only motivate them more.

        People need to realise that the two bickering minorities don't represent us and only serve to feed each other and further the division, naming and shaming each other and giving each other ammunition and conflated identity.

        I might be showing my age a bit but I have always been under the impression that the absolute worst thing you could do was react to a troll. They feed on and gain sustenance from those reactions.

      While I agree that this is what should be done, it in no way excuses Twitch from its lack of action in this area.

      Triggered.
      How dare you? where was the trigger warning?

      Yeah it's peoples' problem for 'being triggered' - what a shit attitude.
      Perhaps harassers should behave like human beings and face consequences when they don't. Radical idea

      You have a broken ethical compass to see a situation like this and get mad not at the people doing the harassing but at the victims of that harassment.

    25 accounts hardly seems like an epidemic of harassment considering Twitch's daily numbers.

      25 easily verified repeated accounts of harrassment identified in only 90 minutes of trivial investigation, none of which have had any action taken against them at all by Twitch despite the harrassment having been brought to Twitch's attention on multiple occasions.

      What part of the above article gave you the impression that 25 accounts was the sum total of all harrassment currently occurring on Twitch?

    25 accounts hardly seems like an epidemic of harassment considering Twitch's daily numbers.

      You're missing the point. This is a small sample of a larger problem. Thought this was obvious

    How easy is it for a human to track down Twitch accounts that either focus on, or regularly engage in, verifiable instances of targeted harassment on the platform?
    1) Open a Twitch stream with more than 500 viewers.
    2) Read the first few comments that appear.

    Nine times out of ten one of the comments you see will be some form of harassment, slur, epithet, derision or outcry against justified moderation. I wish this was a joke...

    Twitch is not alone in this problem, and you can almost correlate the cost of creating an account on some service / game to how uncontrollable the chat is. Look at most F2P or cheap games for instance (looking at BDO here), same garbage is spewed there. There is no real solution other than to waste manpower trying to control it, but if the cost to create an account is $0 the users that care enough to act a fool in public will just create a new account (or likely have multiple already, or a program that automatically creates them). This is why personal moderation is a thing, block / ban the user on your own channel. If the user comes back with a different account, you've now seen the problem first hand. Currently natural language processing is too new to provide any help in automating this type of moderation. So sadly the only two options atm are get some thicker skin and use that block / ban button, or be angry at it all the time.

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