Twitch is adding new tools in the fight against harassment on the platform. Twitch announced it will be adding phone verification chat controls that will allow streamers to require a viewer to have a verified phone number in order to chat. Additionally, Twitch is tweaking the existing email verification settings to give creators greater control over who gets to chat.
Today we’re putting more power in the hands of the community, by enabling phone verified chat! Now creators and mods can require viewers to verify their account via phone number (or email) before they can chat. For more information review the blog: https://t.co/TlqCS4OzQC
— Twitch (@Twitch) September 29, 2021
With these new tools, creators can set email or phone verification requirements for accounts that fall under certain age limits or following lengths. For example, a streamer can make it such that accounts less than a week old or that have only been following for less than a few minutes must have a verified phone number in order to chat. Streamers can also add exemptions to certain kinds of viewers like VIPs, subscribers, or mods. By limiting who can chat based on having a verified phone number, Twitch aims to cut down on hate raid incidents as it’s unlikely bots have phone numbers tied to their accounts.
Twitch also built ban evasion protections into the verification tools. Users are able to tie up to five accounts to a single phone number. If one account associated with a phone number is suspended, all other accounts associated with that same number are also suspended both site and channel-wide.
These tools and updates arrive as creators struggle to keep themselves safe in the face of an explosion in abuse on the platform. Since August, marginalized streamers have been the target of harassment brigades known as “hate raids” in which a streamer’s chat is suddenly flooded with racist, transphobic, and otherwise hateful messages generated by hundreds of bot accounts at a time. To combat this, streamers increasingly relied on community developed tools and resources like panic button programs and mass bot-banning tools.
Creators also took to social media to call out Twitch for what they perceived as the platform’s slow or inadequate response to hate raids. Coordinated under the #twitchdobetter and #adayofftwitch hashtags, streamers organized a Twitch walkout to draw attention to the problem. Twitch did acknowledge the sudden spike in hate raids, promising more tools were forthcoming to help creators protect themselves. Now those tools are here.
Phone verification is the result of months of work according to Angela Hession, vice president of Twitch trust and safety.
“This tool was inspired based on community feedback many months ago,” Hession tells The Verge. Hession understands the deployment of these new tools looks reactive but that their development takes time because Twitch has to account for all its users in different regions across many different kinds of devices. Hession also recognizes the frustration streamers have toward the platform.
“We need to do better at articulating our safety priorities and our progress so the community knows what we’re working on and why,” Hession says. There are, however, reasons why Twitch can seem so tight-lipped.
“I think where we struggle was [striking] this fine balance because a lot of our safety work actually is behind the scenes because we don’t want bad actors to know the technology that we’re working on,” Hession says.
Hession says these tools are only part of a multi-pronged approach to fight harassment on the platform. Earlier this month, Twitch filed a complaint in US federal court against two alleged hate raiders. The suit is meant to hopefully identify the two users known only by their handles, CruzzControl and CreatineOverdose, while acting as a deterrent for other would-be malicious actors.
“Taking legal actions will hopefully stop the bad actors from doing it anywhere else on the internet,” Hession says. “We are just constantly working on proactive detection filters, we also have banned thousands of bots as we’ve improved our proactive detection filters, and we will constantly be changing and tweaking as we see these bad actors are highly motivated and innovative in trying to get around our filters.”
Phone verification is available today and streamers can follow instructions here if they want to enable it for their channel. Hession wants users to know safety is Twitch’s number one priority and that it’s a journey rather than an end state.
“Anyone experiencing any harassment or hate on our services is one too many. And we need to do a better job at communicating that.”