Managing communities is hard. Who knew.
For obvious reasons, the illustrations for this update are going to be mostly unrelated to the topic! Please bear with me as I try to make a not-worksafe topic reasonably worksafe. I said "try".
Two days ago, Twitch updated their terms of service.
Previously prohibited but now Allowed With Label
Content that ‘deliberately highlighted breasts, buttocks or pelvic region,’ even when fully clothed. Streamers found it difficult to determine what was prohibited and what was allowed and often evaluating whether or not a stream violated this portion of the policy was subjective. In addition, the former Sexually Suggestive Content policy was out of line with industry standards and resulted in female-presenting streamers being disproportionately penalized.
Fictionalized (drawn, animated, or sculpted) fully exposed female-presenting breasts and/or genitals or buttocks regardless of gender. There is a thriving artist community on Twitch, and this policy was overly punitive and did not reflect the impact of the content.
Can anyone guess what happened immediately?
Let me interrupt just to say that I am, without a doubt, the worst person to comment on this. I cannot use the term "Twitch meta" without snickering. I am about 30 years older than Twitch's target market. I also have seen many exposed nipples, and even a few penises. I am not endlessly fascinated with the prospect of seeing more. In short, this isn't for me.
Anyway, this was apparently all started by someone named "Morgpie" who streamed while appearing to be topless (visible from the lower shoulders up) and occasionally jumping up and down to, uh, demonstrate her animation rig.
In an interview with Dexerto, Morgpie explained that she had seen another streamer do something similar and had a vision: a vision of lots of very horny men throwing money at her.
“She was getting crazy views with it, so I decided to try it myself, and I got the most views I’ve ever gotten doing it,” Morgpie told us. “So, I think the numbers kind of talk on Twitch, and whatever gets the most views that’s within TOS.”
She quickly discovered that streaming yourself jumping up and down while seemingly topless (Morgpie insisted she was wearing clothing not visible due to the camera angle, which raises interesting questions regarding physics) was in fact not in line with Twitch's TOS, and was swiftly banned.
Then she was unbanned. And the policy was changed. And all of a sudden, thousands of young women discovered the joy of appearing to jump up and down in place on camera.
Very quickly, Twitch was overrun with two things: women displaying their physical fitness prowess and artists drawing very large penises. As far as I know, not simultaneously.
All across the Art category, streamers began drawing anime and furry content, using the new rules to create things that would have resulted in a ban under the old system.
Countless topless anime characters and explicit anthropomorphic images can be seen just by browsing the category, making it difficult to find content that isn’t for mature audiences. What’s more, the content isn’t remotely blurred, leaving nudity plain to see even when browsing the category.
Just in case you were unclear on the topic of "how swiftly your users will test the bounds of your new rules", someone also decided to stream themselves drawing Muhammed, a pastime which tends to get you and everyone involved killed, so much so I'm not even going to try to post a snarky picture about it.
On December 13, the same day Twitch decided to allow “artistic nudity” on the platform, KennyAnimated decided to draw a naked picture of Muhammad on stream performing a very explicit action.
Twitch immediately banned the artist in question, along with banning and suspending many others in a seemingly scattershot fashion. (The Twitter account Streamer Bans tracked much of this.)
Then, finally, this morning, less than 48 hours after the initial rules change, the Great Art and Physical Fitness Exposition was closed, with a statement from Twitch's by now thoroughly exhausted CEO, Dan Clancy.
Much of the content created has been met with community concern. These are concerns we share. Upon reflection, we have decided that we went too far with this change. 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.
So, effective today, we are rolling back the artistic nudity changes. Moving forward, depictions of real or fictional nudity won’t be allowed on Twitch, regardless of the medium.
First off, props to Mr. Clancy for managing to work hot-flavor-of-the-moment AI into the statement, since I'm fairly certain no one was using DALL-E to generate anthropomorphic penises. They were all fully original bespoke anthropomorphic penises.
But this also highlights something pretty much every community manager has known roughly since the dawn of time: as long as there is a community of people congregating in one spot, someone will draw a penis.
That is, in fact, one of the key jobs of a community relations department - to make it clear that no, you cannot just draw, post, photo, show, or describe in lurid detail your or anyone else's penis. Because if you don't, as Twitch demonstrated over the past two days, it's just going to be nothing but penis and the occasional bouncing breast. Why this is, I imagine, is a question for psychologists.
But, as demonstrated by the Muhammad streamer, your community will also push the envelope as quickly as they can, as far as they possibly can, just to see if they can. A change like Twitch's first revision of their rules should have been phased in gradually and with extremely clear guidelines of what is and is not permissible, not just thrown out and left for the lionesses to sort out while bouncing on their trampolines drawing pictures of hyena penises.
Because while this is all very funny and gave all of us the opportunity to use the word "penis" nine times in a single update, this also results in entirely predictable abuses, such as Twitch's most popular streamer being the victim of her husband/pimp. And that's not really all that amusing.
Plus, I dunno, maybe some woman would like to just stream playing a game without someone screaming for her to take her shirt off and jump up and down. I know, crazy thought.