In the midst of the rise In harassment campaigns run by automated bots, organizations like Twitch are resorting to more targeted methods – less like “prohibited hammers” and many more like small prohibition daggers.
Twitch is introducing a new tool that the company believes will reduce the damage caused by bot attacks in chatrooms on video game streaming sites. From today, global streamers will be able to verify their phone numbers via SMS before other users join the chat. This extra step can help reduce harassment from accounts that are not even human, thought-provoking. The news was initially leaked through source code Report Twitch Watchdog by Jack Buse.
This feature comes on the heels of bot attacks, called “hate campaigns”, where harassers send hundreds or thousands of bots to streamers’ chatrooms. There, bot accounts spam hateful, orthodox language, sometimes using Unicode which avoids hate speech filters.
Streamers affected by the hate campaign have talked about the damage they have done to their channels. Sometimes, they were forced to stop streaming Twitch completely. The misleading attack has sparked two large-scale social media protests and a lawsuit so far in response. In early September, thousands of streamers and their supporters staged a one-day boycott, #ADayOffTwitch, Protest the attack and raise awareness. The hashtag #TwitchDoBetter has also become popular on Twitter. Shortly after the boycott, Twitch sued Two users who allegedly carried out the raid. The lawsuit alleges that the individuals, who have not yet been identified, “violated its terms of service by targeting black and LGBTQIA + streamers with racist, gay, sexist and other harassing content.”
The problem with bot attacks is that Twitch can’t ban one or a hundred accounts associated with this campaign, and it can be done. “The challenge at the moment is that bad actors can create additional accounts to avoid bans,” said Angela Hesson, vice president of trust and safety at Twitch. Twitch complained that the two users being sued, for example, operated multiple Twitch accounts under different titles. And there are countless bots associated with each of those accounts. Allegedly, both users claimed that they could “create thousands of bots in a matter of minutes” to operate the streamer.
Twitch has been battling bottommakers for over a decade. (In 2016-2016, it sued the botmakers who increased the number of viewers and followers of the streamer.) However, the company needs to strike a balance between making its platform secure and accessible. Chatrooms are an important feature for streamers to build their audience. If Twitch makes it very difficult for new viewers to post, the service loses a lot of its power.
Streamers have been offered more control over who can and can’t chat so far. Streamers already have the option to simply subscribe to their chats, or to slow down their chats so that moderators can approve messages. Twitch also has the option to force all chats to verify their emails. Although that was not enough.
The company believes that verifying phone numbers in this toolbox will help. Users can verify up to five accounts with one phone number, as there are some good reasons why streamers may have multiple accounts – such as creating chatbots to share useful information. If one account associated with a number is banned, so will all other accounts. Unlike two-factor authentication, viewers only need to verify once, each time they will not log in or chat. And phone verification will apply to all the channels they watch.
A spokesman for Twitch says the company’s product team began working on the tool five months ago, before the August hate campaign epidemic.