For years, Twitch.tv has been the web's go-to for gaming live streams, crowd-sourced experiments like Pokémon playthroughs and commenter-controlled investment portfolios and other bits of acceptably time-killing content. Unfortunately, this droll peace is being threatened by the internet equivalent of the dumb controversy surrounding desnudas in Times Square.
Image: Screengrab via Twitch
Per the BBC, a "small number of streamers with large, dedicated audiences" have begun agitating against the alleged takeover of Twitch by so-called "booby streamers", i.e. scantily clad young women who try to lure other users into buying them gifts or sending them Twitch's official microcurrency.
According to these very concerned individuals, the number of women doing so has sharply increased in recent months.
One professional streamer, Steven Bonnell, has recorded videos warning that the issue has become a "crisis of culture where we don't actually know ... what is the site supposed to be used for?" He told the BBC that Twitch needed to step up its game and prevent the site from becoming a camgirl hangout.
"It's pretty clear that there are some streamers that step over the line," Bonnell said. "They wear provocative clothing and act provocatively."
Twitch's IRL section "is taking on a culture of its own," he added. "It's become much more sexualised."
On Saturday, a non-exhaustive look at IRL showed a number of the featured slots were indeed young women, though the majority just seemed to be livestreaming themselves strumming on guitars, eating lunch, or sitting around doing things on the computer (i.e., they weren't doing anything objectionable whatsoever). A few were dancing or doing yoga while wearing short shorts and tank tops, though the yoga practitioner mentioned she would be live-streaming from the zoo later.
In other words, things seemed pretty PG — if no more or less banal than most of the other stuff on the site — leading one to suspect at least some of the underlying concern might be rooted less in fears Twitch is about to become MyFreeCams than the internet's infamous obsession with policing women's behaviour online.
According to the BBC report, some of the streamers in question have suddenly found themselves in violation of Twitch's terms of service, though rules have been expressed and enforced ambiguously enough that they're confused as to what specific behaviour it considers inappropriate. A Twitch spokesman told the BBC only that "We give our community freedom to express themselves as long as they adhere to our community guidelines ... If inappropriate behaviour is observed, we encourage viewers to report it since our moderation team reviews all cases."
In the past, other streamers have pointed out that perhaps should one even work up the effort to care about the issue in any real capacity, it's not something that affects other creators on the platform. The vast majority of Twitch viewers arrive on the site to to watch specific streamers like Guy "Dr. DisRespect" Beahm, rather than wandering through Twitch's lobby system, so there's not actually much lost viewership or revenue at stake for anyone incapable of out-competing a cosplayer doing squats.
But this is the last throes of 2017 we're talking about, so it might not all be that surprising if this dumb controversy explodes into something we're all eventually compelled to watch angry dudes yell on YouTube and smash coffee makers over.