Twitch.tv are de facto hosts of all things streamed on PC, and yesterday they made some serious mistakes. A lead admin launched a banning spree in response to an emotionally charged exchange on the service’s speed running channels. And as users fled to the /r/gaming subreddit to complain, a Twitch volunteer saw to it that their posts were deleted.
This morning sees Twitch systematically unbanning the accounts of streaming partners and users alike - and seeking to “repair the damage that has been done to the relationship between Twitch and the Speedrunning community, in particular”.
Even now, Twitch’s official account of how the affair began differs from the community consensus. In their Reddit apology, Twitch write that they discovered that copyrighted images had been uploaded as emoticons to the chatroom of speed runner cyghfer on the streaming service.
Twitch policy condemns the use of unlicensed images as subscription emoticons, which are granted as perks to paying subscribers. And so Horror, a paid Twitch staff member, notified cyghfer of the violation and removed the emoticons. Unfortunately, only two of the three emoticons in question were unlicensed - the third was licensed under Creative Commons.
“We have notified cyghfer of our mistake in this matter,” said Twitch.
By then, however, several Twitch users had begun to explore the company’s emoticon policy, which they perceived to be inconsistent. One user took particular offence to one licensed image - commissioned explicitly for Twitch - which had been made a ‘global’ emoticon by admin Horror as a “personal favour”.
Twitch users tell a slightly different story - that the “drama” started when Horror uploaded a “bunch” of emoticons for a boyfriend, which were eventually deemed inappropriate and then removed.
But both accounts cohere here - it’s clear that Horror was subjected to abuse about the apparent misuse of his admin powers. One speed runner and Twitch partner made a lewd suggestion that they, too, might get a personalised set of emoticons if they were romantically involved with the admin - and soon found their account banned.
Fellow speed runners then took up the cause, beginning a ‘Remove Horror’ campaign in Twitch chat which led to their own bannings. Twitch report that users began to make jokes, and “other much less funny derogatory and/or offensive remarks” in chat. Their fates were similarly predictable.
“Additionally, many of these users began harassing our staff and admins outside of Twitch chat using other social media channels,” the company added.
“Harassment and/or defamation of any user on the site, including a staff member, is clearly against the Twitch terms of service. 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,” Twitch admitted. “Horror was too close to this situation and should have recused himself in favor of less conflicted moderators. Being personally involved led to very poor decisions being made.”
Meanwhile, another related storm was brewing over at /r/gaming, where Twitch users were congregating to talk about the rogue admin. The internet’s favourite enemy, censorship, reared its unwelcome head when a Twitch volunteer also working as a mod for the subreddit took it upon themselves to delete the offending threads.
“This was obviously a mistake,” said Twitch, citing the Streisland effect - the phenomenon that sees covered-up information instead find a much larger audience. “We at Twitch do not believe in censoring discussion, and more to the point know that it’s doomed to failure.”
In the hours since, Twitch have dedicated themselves to damage control. Horror has reportedly recognised his mistake, and will no longer moderate for the company. The volunteer admin responsible for the Reddit fiasco has also been relieved of their duties.
Twitch users are being unbanned left and right, and the speed runners who began the campaign against Horror have had their accounts provisionally returned to them, pending investigation.
“We failed to provide a valued partner with proper support when we needed to remove their unlicensed emoticons,” said Twitch in pinpointing their failings over the last 24 hours. “We allowed a questionable emoticon to be made available in global chat.
“We failed to properly train our staff members to recuse themselves from personally involved situations, and as a result poor moderation decisions were made,” they went on. “We did not have the structure or training in place in our moderation policies and training to deal with this episode properly.”
The company plans to conduct a “full review” of their admin policies and community moderation procedures as a result - and note that “right now pretty much every moderation issue will be tainted by this episode”.