Brandon Doerrer
Dec 18, 2023

Twitch relaxes sexual content guidelines, but they still could endanger ad revenue for streamers

“Highlighting” fully clothed breasts may be costly for some content creators, in one example of how the guidelines could create confusion

Twitch relaxes sexual content guidelines, but they still could endanger ad revenue for streamers

On Wednesday, Twitch made changes to its sexual content and content classification guidelines that could impact streamers financially. 

The Amazon-owned livestreaming platform said it will allow behavior that was previously prohibited, such as drawn, animated or sculpted depictions of nudity, body painting and “dances” such as twerking, pole dancing and strip teasing — but only if the stream is properly labeled as containing sexual themes.

The new guidelines also allow content that “deliberately” highlights breasts, buttocks or the pelvic region, even when fully clothed, with proper labeling. 

This particular point leaves room for interpretation, and some streamers may find themselves undesirably slapped with a label — Twitch intends for streamers to self-police — but will apply labels it deems necessary after manually reviewing a reported stream.

Having a sexually explicit tag applied to a stream could deprive a streamer of ad revenue, because marketers can choose which labels to advertise against.

“We understand that for some brands having more visibility into stream content may increase their confidence and subsequent ad investment on Twitch, while other brands may not want to run their ads alongside streams with specific [labels] applied,” Twitch said via email. “We highlight the possibility that the type of content streamed could affect ad revenue, so that streamers can make informed decisions about their content.”

Twitch currently offers a 55/45 ad revenue split in favor of streamers.

When content that deliberately highlighted body parts was outright disallowed, “Streamers found it difficult to determine what was prohibited and what was allowed and, often, evaluating whether or not a stream violated this portion of the policy was subjective,” Twitch said in updated guidelines. It also acknowledged that female-presenting streamers were “disproportionately penalised.”

The new sexual content rules within Twitch’s content classification guidelines provide an example of “content that focuses on clothed intimate body parts” which would require a label: “Wearing yoga pants and holding a split position with the camera pointing at your groin area.”

Twitch provides further insight into what constitutes “deliberately highlighting” body parts in its community guidelines on acceptable attire.

Visible outlines of genitals are a no-go, even when covered. Streamers presenting as women must cover their nipples. Underbust is a no but cleavage is okay. Sidebust is unclear. Clothing must also cover every streamer’s “hips to the bottom of [their] pelvis and buttocks.” See-through clothing doesn’t count as coverage. Vtubers, or virtual avatars, are subject to the same rules.

However, Twitch itself acknowledges that as detailed as these rules are, there will be cases where it will have to apply a subjective ruling. “An explicit dress code would be unreasonably restrictive,” the community guidelines said.

The type of clothing a streamer wears is not the only factor that affects whether Twitch considers a streamer to be deliberately highlighting parts of their body. As noted in the yoga pants example, a streamer’s camera angle and focus can also play a part.

“When evaluating reports for sexual conduct, attire is just one factor we will use in making a determination on whether conduct is acceptable,” the community guidelines read.

Apart from attire, the rest of those factors are less clear, meaning that a camera pointed a bit too low could constitute “highlighting” fully clothed breasts. As popular Twitch streamers and Twitch have noted, female-presenting streamers are often scrutinised much harder than their male peers.

Despite being somewhat open-ended, as social media guidelines often are, streamers have praised the new guidelines for no longer banning streamers for sexual content.

(This article first appeared on PRWeek)

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