Twitch released some changes to their community guidelines Wednesday that will go into effect Feb. 19 after a transition period. The focus of the update was to strengthen and clarify Twitch's policies regarding harassment and sexual content. 


In its statement, Twitch wrote: "During the transition period, we'll be reaching out to some streamers whose current and past content may violate these new guidelines to help you be successful on Twitch." Thats means any past VODs or clips that violate the new rules will need to be deleted, or the streamer will face consequences.

Twitch's anti-harassment policy has been expanded and given more definition than it previously had. 


According to Twitch's statement: "Hateful conduct is any content or activity that promotes, encourages, or facilitates discrimination, denigration, objectification, harassment, or violence based on the following characteristics, and is strictly prohibited: Race, ethnicity, or national origin; religion; sex, gender, or gender identity; age; sexual orientation; disability or mental condition; physical characteristics; veteran status."


Plenty of fans mocked that section of the changes, claiming Twitch will crack down on their freedom of expression in order to make Twitch more palatable for sponsorship from bigger companies. But harassment on social platforms is a very real issue plaguing the internet, and Twitch is forced to deal with that reality to protect its users.

The bigger change in regards to harassment, though, comes in the next section of the guideline.


"Additionally, we will now consider verifiable hateful or harassing conduct that takes place off-Twitch when making moderation decisions for actions that occur on Twitch. If you use other services to direct hate or harassment towards someone on Twitch, we will consider it a violation of Twitch’s policies."


Streamers were already disallowed from making hateful remarks against other streamers on Twitch, but only while they were streaming. That has now opened up to any social media platform that a streamer might use. Streamers from now on will have to be careful with their presentation, much in a similar way that YouTubers are.

Finally, there's the elephant in the room: the sexual conduct guideline. Anyone who has ever opened the IRL section of Twitch knows that the rule regarding "no sexual content" has been largely ignored by several streamers. It has gotten better over the past few weeks, but it has plagued Twitch since the IRL section started. Even more so, there ​have been accusations that Twitch staff allows female streamers to display explicitly sexual content on the IRL section rather than enforcing the same rules for everyone. 


Like the harassment section, Twitch has defined how it will monitor sexual content in the future.


"We’re updating our moderation framework to review your conduct in its entirety when evaluating if the intent is to be sexually suggestive," the statement reads. "We’ll be looking at contextual elements such as the stream title, camera angles, emotes, panels, attire, overlays, and chat moderation."

The community is split, and even some in support of the changes are skeptical of how Twitch will carry them out. This is a turning point for the popular streaming service. Either the changes make the service more welcoming to all, or just create a bigger divide than already existed.