Twitch is taking a legal stand against one of its biggest scourges: botters, or websites that profit from artificially inflating viewership on the popular streaming platform.
The company is suing seven of “the most active sellers of viewbot services,” it announced today. Twitch already has “a range of technological solutions” for detecting false viewers and removing them, and the moderation, support, and partnerships teams investigate reports of botting regularly, according to its announcement.
“We are taking the next step towards protecting Twitch viewers and broadcasters from the damaging effects of this kind of malicious activity,” Twitch’s senior vice president of marketing, Matthew DiPietro, said in the announcement.
In the complaint, Twitch names seven individuals that run botting sites twitch-buddy.com, twitch-viewerbot.com, twitchviewerbot.net, streambot.com, blackdesertbot.com, twitchstarter.com, twitchstarter.tv, babatools.com, stream-viewers.com, twitchswiss.com, and streamhomies.com as the defendants.
The complaint alleges trademark infringement, two counts of unfair competition (state and federal), cybersquatting, computer fraud and abuse, breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, fraud, California comprehensive computer data access and fraud, and accounting. The overall take-away from these counts is that the botting companies are helping people break the Twitch terms of service, and in the case of some of the sites, using the Twitch brand in their name.
Twitch isn’t the first gaming company to take legal action against bot companies. Last November Blizzard Entertainment announced it was suing the alleged operators of popular cheating bots. Botting can have a very negative effect on gaming communities. In Blizzard’s case, it can drastically detract from gamers’ experience when playing against cheaters. On Twitch, bots have been used by people to harass broadcasters or by the streamers themselves to get more attention or partnership.
Twitch is demanding a jury trial in this case, rather than a decision from a judge. This could work in its favor, as an individual judge might not understand the situation and how much botting affects Twitch’s business, according to video game attorney Ryan Morrison.
“A jury will look more at the situation outside of the letter of the law,” Morrison tells the Daily Dot. “Juries are famously swayed by emotions and looking at these facts there is a clear bad guy here.”
Morrison says a jury trial is also more expensive and often drawn out. The defendants in the case might not be able to afford the trial process, meaning it will likely be settled outside of court and never even reach the jury stage.
If Twitch wins, it likely won’t bring any monetary recompense—despite the fact these sites charge users for their services, Morrison says. But it will result in the sites being shut down and serve to deter people from starting botting sites in the future.
In Twitch’s complaint, the company also asks that each of the botting sites provide evidence of its users so Twitch can “identify purchasers of such services.” If that happens, it means that a lot of people are about to get the perma-ban hammer.
“Twitch has a pretty easy open-and-shut case here,” Morrison says.