Twitch’s new anti-harassment policy is not enough

You may have read the widely flung news that Twitch – the world’s most popular gaming streaming platform – will be soon moderating usage of the terms ‘simp’, ‘Incel’ and ‘virgin’ in their upcoming revamp of the service’s harassment policy.

These words won’t be outright banned – as was initially reported – while the new ‘Hateful Conduct and Harassment Policy’, to give the directive its full title, is due to become operational on January 22 2021.

‘Simp’ and ‘incel’, and, in the context of the aforementioned words, ‘virgin’, are all slurs predominantly directed at men and boys. This group remains gaming’s most sizable demographic. 17% of all gamers, claim the Entertainment Software Association, are boys aged seventeen and under.

It’s true that there are more women and girls playing video games than ever before, but only 6% of them identify as ‘gamers’, compared to 15% of men and boys. Males are three times more likely to purchase a game than females.

Twitch’s new policy is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, while being naively myopic about the reality of online gaming’s toxicity problem. Few could argue that of all the groups who need protection in online spaces, cis men and boys shouldn’t be at the front of the queue.

“Woman have a really rough time of it on the site,” prominent British based Twitch streamer Grimsevers tells me. “Truth is, the people who are being described as ‘simps’ and ‘incels’ are the people who give Twitch a lot of money through subs. They want to be on their good side. There would be absolutely no harm in blanket blacklisting offensive words used towards women.”

Image: IanDagnall Computing / Alamy Stock Photo

Lauren Aitken is one of gaming’s most respected guides creators. She concurs. When I ask about Twitch’s new harassment policy, she laughs. “It’s rad that Twitch can moderate the usage of ‘virgin’ and ‘Incel’,” she says sarcastically. “It’s a shame they can’t prevent pile ons and insults towards women in chats.”

More statistics. A 2019 study conducted by US ‘anti hate’ organisation, the Anti-Defamation League, in collaboration with games and esports analytics firm Newzoo, reports that over half of gamers based in the US have experienced some kind of harassment either in play or out of it. But dig deeper and the stats corroborate Grimsevers and Lauren’s thinking.

The aforementioned study revealed that 38% of the women polled in the survey encountered harassment due to their gender, and 35% of LGBTQ players were harassed due to their sexual orientation. 53% said they were targeted because of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. Why does this matter? Because 23% percent of players report that they became less social as a result of this harassment. 15% claim they felt isolated after…

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