How Twitch kept its crown in a controversial year

With a fresh approach to harassment on the horizon, Twitch is ending 2020 in an enviable position. Twitch is the undisputed king of live streaming platforms, with more than 10.5 million unique channels, compared to about 913,000 for YouTube Gaming and 268,000 for Facebook Gaming, according to Streamlabs. Between July and September this year, Twitch clocked more than 4.7 billion hours watched, while YouTube hit about 1.7 billion and Facebook got just over 1 billion. 

One of Twitch’s rivals, Mixer, shut down in the summer, and even though Microsoft attempted to push its audience toward Facebook Gaming, most streamers ended up on Twitch. Following his exclusive gig on Mixer, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the most popular streamer in the world, re-joined Twitch in September. He currently has the most followers of anyone on the platform, with 16.5 million.

Twitch isn’t out of the woods, but it’s built a nice cabin there and is settling in for the long haul. The company is currently dealing with a rash of DMCA takedowns, and every day, it’s attempting to strike a balance in its moderation policies. In late December, Twitch suspended professional Valorant player Taynha “Tayhuhu” Yukimi after her three-year-old wandered onto her live stream and interacted with the chat, alone, while she was answering the door. Twitch’s terms prohibit anyone under the age of 13 from streaming, though children have made appearances on other channels without issue. She shared the news of her suspension on Twitter, and calls for Twitch to reverse the decision rolled in. Her channel was reinstated two days after her Twitter posts with no official word on what happened.

That last part is the trickiest bit for Twitch. With a history of inconsistent moderation practices and poor communication, transparency will be critical to Twitch’s reputation in the years ahead. Now that the company has outlined fresh policies on harassment and bans, it has a solid foundation for explaining its future decisions, and it needs to take full advantage of this reset. When high-profile streamers are banned or otherwise punished, Twitch should publicly explain why. When a notable streamer, developer or community member is accused of abuse, Twitch needs to share the steps it’s taking to investigate. If the company finds evidence of wrongdoing, it has to act quickly and take steps to prevent future infractions, but also explain the situation clearly to the community.

So, yes, Twitch needs to provide the actions to back up its words — but in 2021 and beyond, the inverse is also true.

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