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Our Plan for Addressing Severe Off-Service Misconduct

Apr 7 2021

In January, we began enforcing our updated Hateful Conduct and Harassment policy so we could better protect every community on Twitch. In case you missed it, the refreshed policy features a clearer and more consistent stance against hate and harassment, and gives you more insight on what is and isn’t acceptable on Twitch. 

Today, we’re shifting focus and talking about how we plan to address severe misconduct that impacts the Twitch community, but happens off Twitch. 

Our current guidelines state that in some serious cases where there is available, verifiable evidence, we may take action against users for hateful conduct or harassment that occurs off Twitch services—meaning on social media, other online services, or even offline—when directed at members of the Twitch community

We are updating and expanding our approach to off-service enforcement, which now falls into two categories: 

Category one: Someone is harassed on Twitch, as well as off Twitch. When this happens, we will take into account verifiable, off-service behaviors or statements that relate to an incident that took place on Twitch. For example: if we’re reviewing a harassment report about an incident that happened live on stream, related or continued harassment on Twitter could be taken into account when reported to us. This is how our current off-service policy works in the vast majority of cases, and will not change. 

Category two: We will now enforce against serious offenses that pose a substantial safety risk to the Twitch community, even if these actions occur entirely off Twitch. Examples of these behaviors include: 

These behaviors represent some of the most egregious types of physical and psychological harm, but we understand that this list is not inclusive of all types of harassment and abuse. 

Taking action against misconduct that occurs entirely off our service is a novel approach for both Twitch and the industry at large, but it’s one we believe—and hear from you—is crucial to get right. Part of that means being clear with you about the limitations of our policy. At this time, we’re not able to investigate behaviors that occur entirely off Twitch that fall outside these categories. This is an iterative, ongoing process, and as always, our end goal is to build a safer Twitch for everyone. 

While this policy is new, we have taken action historically against serious, clear misconduct that took place off service, but until now, we didn’t have an approach that scaled. These investigations are vastly more complex and can take significant time and resources to resolve. We have access to the relevant data about activity that occurs on the Twitch service, which enables us to investigate reports and enforce our policies. For behaviors that take place off Twitch, we must rely more heavily on law enforcement and other services to share relevant evidence before we can move forward.

In order to be as thorough and efficient as possible in these situations, we’re bringing on a highly-regarded third party investigative partner to support our internal team with these investigations.  

This partner is an experienced investigations law firm that is dedicated to conducting independent workplace and campus investigations including those related to sexual discrimination or assault. They have deep expertise in these types of cases, as well as training in conducting investigations with respect and sensitivity to all parties involved. This partnership will allow us to more thoroughly investigate and respond to reports of off-service misconduct. We’ve also increased the size of our internal law enforcement response team which is extensively trained to manage sensitive, confidential investigations and partner with law enforcement.

Additionally, we’ve created a dedicated email address where anyone can report egregious, off-service misconduct in the categories above committed by a member of the Twitch community. That email address is OSIT@twitch.tv. Any info sent to this address will be treated as confidential, and only shared with a very limited group within Twitch and our third-party investigative partner. It’s important to note that this is not intended to be a substitute for law enforcement or other safety processes, and we encourage reporting to the relevant legal authorities as the first step in these situations.  

To report other types of harmful or inappropriate behavior that occurs on Twitch, the best course of action is still to file a detailed report using the Twitch reporting tool, and a member of our Safety team will review it.  

Strong communities are built on trust, and we are putting in place a rigorous process to enable us to conduct investigations thoroughly, equitably, and with sensitivity. We will only take action when there is evidence, which may include links, screenshots, video of off-Twitch behavior, interviews, police filings or interactions, that have been verified by our law enforcement response team or our third party investigators. 

Due to the sensitive nature of these issues, we will share updates with the parties involved about the outcome of the investigation but we will not share updates publicly. Given this, we want to be clear about our policy and its limitations from the outset. We understand that this may be frustrating, but we’ve enlisted the support of these third party investigators to protect the rights, confidentiality, and privacy of all those involved, and to preserve the integrity of these investigations. Ultimately, we are taking this step to better ensure that Twitch is as safe, inclusive, diverse, and positive an environment as, together, we can make it.

FAQs:

Why doesn’t this new policy address other serious offenses?

These cases can be complex to investigate and verify, particularly when they take place entirely off Twitch, so we have focused on behaviors that have the greatest potential to harm our community. Most services do not address these situations, so we need to incrementally establish this capability as we learn from our initial launch. We’re committed to finding ways to keep our community safe, and today’s update is an important step in that ongoing body of work. We have prioritized the most serious offenses that pose an immediate physical safety threat in order to ensure we are equipped to take action when these impact our community. We feel strongly that this is a necessary step to protect our community, but we want to ensure we’re able to handle these cases thoroughly and effectively. 

How can you guarantee confidentiality?

Our law enforcement response team is trained in ensuring appropriate confidentiality, as are our third-party law investigative partners. Any information shared with the OSIT@ email alias will be limited to a very small, specialized group who are trained professionals with expertise in handling sensitive material. 

How will you guard against users filing false reports using the alias?

Our law enforcement response team is trained to substantiate any evidence related to user reports and will only take action in cases where we or our third-party law firm partners have been able to find a preponderance of evidence. We will also suspend accounts for submitting large amounts of frivolous reports, or encouraging others to submit fake reports.

What if I need to report a Twitch employee?

Our law enforcement response team is fully equipped to investigate sensitive and confidential reports against Twitch employees, and we will bring in our third party investigator as needed. The best way to report any user for misconduct that occurs on Twitch is through our reporting tool, but we will also evaluate staff-related incidents that are reported via the OSIT@ email alias.

Will you consider evidence of off-service harassment if I was also harassed on Twitch?

Yes, we will continue to take verifiable off-service behaviors or statements into account when they relate to an incident that took place on Twitch, or if they are directed specifically towards Twitch users.

Will I know if I’m under investigation? 

In some cases, where appropriate, we will inform the parties involved. However, in cases related to illegal behaviors, we may not be able to alert the person involved in order to preserve evidence.  

Will Twitch take any action against my account while I’m under investigation?

We will not take action against a user’s account until our investigation is complete, and will only issue an enforcement action if we are able to confirm evidence of wrongdoing. 

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