Twitch found themselves in some hot water (hah! See what I did there?) with their streaming community recently when they demonetized the channel of popular hot tub streamer Amouranth. Now, you may have the same question that I had when all of this first came to my attention:
What the heck is a hot tub stream?
Hot tub streams started as a way to adhere to (or circumvent, depending on your perspective) Twitch's terms of service regarding swimwear, which was only acceptable if the streamer was near or around water. Twitch had addressed this type of streaming before, stating that they were monitoring the situation, but would not issue any outright bans for content that wasn't explicitly and overtly inappropriate.
These types of streams started gaining traction in March of this year. There are plenty of mixed opinions on these types of streams, but they don't violate Twitch's TOS. According to this Kotaku article, Twitch user XoAeriel says she was the first streamer to use an inflatable hot tub late last year and thinks the accessibility of her method contributed to the popularity of the stream style.
"“In December of 2020, I went on Amazon and purchased a blow-up hot tub,” she told Kotaku in an email. “I wanted some kind of different content, and no one else was doing it. I got a couple of LED lights to go inside, and when it arrived I began streaming. Views took off pretty quickly, and my following started to grow pretty fast. A few streamers started noticing my views shot through the roof and also ordered a blow-up hot tub...People have said, ‘Hot tub streams existed before you.’ Yes, this is true. However, blow-up hot tub streams did not, and it never became a meta until I did it.”"
Because these streams exist in the "Just Chatting" category, Twitch's proposed solution of flagging the category as "Not Interested" didn't work for most viewers - in addition, selecting "not interested" will not prevent promoted streams from being viewed on the main page. These arguments and discussions have been circulating for a while now, but it finally all came to a head last week when Twitch streamer Amouranth announced via Twitter that her ad revenue had been suspended.
"Yesterday I was informed that Twitch has Indefinitely Suspended Advertising on my channel," she tweeted. "Twitch didn't reach out in any way whatsoever. I had to initiate the conversation after noticing, without any prior warning, all the ads revenue had disappeared from my Channel Analytics."
She went on to explain that she made a lot of revenue annually via ads and that the sudden loss of them because her content was deemed "not advertiser appropriate" would have quite an affect financially.
It was this highly publicized community outcry that prompted Twitch to address the situation and add a new category to their platform: Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches. In a blog post (and a mass email to their streaming community), Twitch had this to say:
"Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen and had many conversations about Hot Tub streams, and we want to address it candidly. The content brings up questions that are complex with few easy, clear answers. We’re approaching it thoughtfully and respectfully, which is why we’ve taken our time to address it publicly after a lot of internal deliberation. Given the nuances, this is going to be a long post but we wanted to explain in detail our thinking and approach, as well as next steps both in the short and long term.
Much of the conversation we’ve seen has focused on the people who are streaming this and similar content, including assumptions about their motivations and intentions, and we want to make a few things clear: first and foremost, no one deserves to be harassed for the content they choose to stream, how they look, or who they are, and we will take action against anyone who perpetuates this kind of toxicity on our service. Second, while we have guidelines about sexually suggestive content, being found to be sexy by others is not against our rules, and Twitch will not take enforcement action against women, or anyone on our service, for their perceived attractiveness."
The blog goes on to detail what actions Twitch plans to take in the future to clarify their terms of service, add new relevant categories (which is already partially in effect), and so on. It also explains why ad revenue was suspended and apologizes for not clearly communicating with streamers prior to that action occurring.
While the discourse on this subject will probably be never ending (it is the Internet, after all), for now it seems as if Twitch has taken steps toward mitigating the issue. What are your thoughts?