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Twitch moves to limit US online gaming content on streams

Streaming entertainment service Tic is set to limit types of online gaming content in the United States its partners can figure. Some details of the upcoming policy change, however, suggest that it may not be enough to address the concerns of partners and viewers.

Although the full language of policy updates is not yet available, the language of the announcement reads as if it may have too many exemptions and be too vague to be truly effective. At the same time, user concerns might not be Twitch’s first priority.

US Online Gaming Twitch Streams May Change Soon

On September 20Twitch has announced impending changes to its gaming policy.

While not isolated to a single Twitch partner or incident, a particular streamer and connected reveal could have been the catalyst for this announcement. According Alex Tsiaoussidis by DOT Esports, streamer It’s liker made a startling confession on September 17.

ItsSliker admitted that he has a pathological gambling problem and further stated that he defrauded people out of $300,000 in the context of this problem. While this may have been the stream that broke the back of the camera, it’s representative of greater criticism of gaming content on Twitter.

Why Game Streams on Twitch Have Been a Problem

Even for streams that are not part of fraudulent activity, there has been some controversy. Common criticisms include the trigger content for those like ItsSliker who have a problem with compulsive gambling and content that works for expose young people gambling.

According to Stream Scheme, the largest plurality of Twitch users are between 16 and 24 years old. This distribution also claims nearly a quarter of users are in the United States. Thus, minors consuming gaming content is a legitimate concern.

In regards to content being an issue for those who are of gambling age but struggle with problem gambling, Twitch has mostly left the handling of this situation to its partners. This has led to irresponsible content like streamers only showing their earnings and running freebies attached to promotional codes from online casinos.

This policy update by Twitch may not be sufficient to address these concerns. The information that the platform has already shared contains several weaknesses when it comes to a solid consumer protection strategy.

The gaping holes in Twitch’s new policy

To sum up what Twitch said, Twitch will no longer allow game streams… except game streams that it allows. Many questions about the policy may be answered in the next full posting of policy changes before the Effective date of October 18. At the moment, there are several relevant questions, such as:

  • Which jurisdictions does Twitch consider provide sufficient consumer protections?
  • Does Twitch understand that a streamer or viewer can still develop a game problem solely by using licensed sites?
  • What about underage users accessing content?
  • Will the compliance checks of the sites presented depend on user complaints?
  • Will the rules for poker and sports betting streams remain completely unchanged?

If the only change Twitch has made is to ban streamers from streaming a handful of sites in a bid to quell the fuss around ItsSliker’s confession, that’s a weak and almost futile modification. It does nothing to address the factors that are part of ItsSliker’s situation.

Twitch has no legal obligation to verify the age of users when accessing gaming content or to require streamers to represent their gaming activity fairly. There is, however, a difference between legal and moral obligations.

Twitch should deal with irresponsible gaming content on its platform

In the same way that Twitch can dictate to its partners which online casinos they can stream, it seems the platform should have the power to require streamers to include resource information for those struggling with problem gambling.

In the same way that Twitch can review content for bigoted language and impose suspensions, Twitch should be able to review content that paints a misleading picture of online gambling. Without real consequences for this behavior, none of its partners is encouraged to modify its approaches.

These rules should apply to poker and sports betting streams too. In case Twitch isn’t aware, these are still forms of gameplay, even if some skills are involved.

Twitch does not have the staff to actively police all of its live content to comply with all policies and therefore relies primarily on users to report violations. The problem with this reactive approach, however, is that this type of damage is hard to undo.

A temporary suspension for streaming unlicensed slot machines is not going to cure ItsSliker’s gambling addiction. As ItsSliker and others who struggle with compulsive gambling face their struggles, Twitch can reduce the ways it contributes to this problem. This is a golden opportunity to do so.