Twitch isn’t a free speech platform, CEO says

Twitch’s CEO said communities with more moderation are better than those without.

Image via Twitch

Twitch CEO Emmett Shear gave some clarity earlier today on the company’s speech policies—and how it enforces them.

Shear didn’t mince words. Twitch is, he said in an interview with The Verge earlier today, “very explicitly not a free speech platform.”

Shear said that he was part of a group of internet entrepreneurs in 2005 who believed in open web communities with few limitations on free speech. Looking back, he realized his mistake and “how much you could empower bad actors by doing that as well.”

Twitch doesn’t allow unfettered free speech for this reason. With less moderation, any expression becomes a target for trolls and abuse. Reddit experienced this issue first-hand, facing a series of public relations disasters over the past decade relating to child pornography, trolls, and white supremacy movements.

Shear clearly wants Twitch to set a different type of example—to limit some speech to prevent toxicity, racism, and sexism from taking over the platform. But sometimes the company’s policies—and specifically how it enforces them—have led to their own controversies. .

Twitch’s terms of service policies are confusing to a lot of its streamers. The company seems to drop temporary bans for the slightest indiscretion but then seems to do nothing surrounding the worst offenses—like when streamer Alinity wasn’t banned after she appeared to toss her cat on stream.

Twitch received a lot of blowback during the height of the Alinity issue thanks to its silence on the issue, which reinforced the belief that Alinity received preferential treatment. But the company’s decision was right out of its policy guidelines, Shear said. 

Confusion over those guidelines should be reduced going forward, however. According to the Verge report, the company will soon send streamers a clip of the offending moment from their broadcast, along with an explicit explanation of how the policies were violated. That type of transparency could go a long way towards reducing some of the tension between the company and its streamers.