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Twitch Might Bring Back Artistic Nudity

"I think it's something we can look at to see how we can meet the art community"

Shutterstock / GoodStudio

Late last year, Twitch took a bold stride in a previously off-limits direction, permitting streams that featured drawn or painted artistic nudity, highlighted specific body parts, or included other types of potentially suggestive content as long as it was appropriately labeled. It did not take long for depictions of nudity to overwhelm Twitch’s art category, while creators also got creative with implied IRL nudity, forcing Twitch to roll back the lion’s share of its new rules and clarify others. But Twitch CEO Dan Clancy doesn’t want the service to be unsafe for NSFW artwork forever.

Speaking with Aftermath as part of a larger interview (coming soon), Clancy said that execution, rather than intention, caused the December update to crash and burn. While some have suggested that Twitch could have just waited out the update’s most vocal critics and the flood of streamers trying to capitalize on the novelty of it all, Clancy believes the company had no choice.

"I actually think in this space, I think people would've kept [posting nudity in Twitch’s art section], because that's the nature of sexually themed content and viewership and all that,” Clancy told Aftermath. “So I think [rolling back the rules] is something we needed to do. I was supportive of our intention, which was for artistic expression, but as we all know, there is no line between artistic expression and gaining views."

That said, Clancy does want to revisit the idea in the future. He doesn’t believe Twitch is ready yet, but in terms of features, it’s set to make big strides in that direction this year.

"We have labeling,” Clancy said. “We're gonna launch the ability for viewers to filter based upon labels. The key thing in all of this is, you want users that want to find this stuff to be able to find it, and you want users that don't want this stuff in front of them to have it not in front of them. You want that choice. I think once we have the ability that viewers can set their setting and say, 'I don't want to see stuff that is sexually themed' and we get the right defaults in there, I think it's something we can look at to see how we can meet the art community."

The other big issue is thumbnails, as evidenced by people passing around images of Twitch’s art category cluttered with unmissable nudity

"We need to have a better situation in terms of thumbnail blurring, is the other thing,” said Clancy. “Because part of the challenge is the thumbnails themselves are for some people offensive, but for some people they're just unsettling because they don't want to see that on their screen when they're picking what to watch."

Invariably, some people will still cross whatever line Twitch ends up drawing. They might accidentally do so in good faith, as some artists did during and after the short-lived artistic nudity era, or they might go too far with a new boundary-pushing meta (the latest of which, by the way, involves broadcasting gameplay onto chests and butts (lol)). But Clancy says the company is preparing for that, too – not just when it comes to nudity and sexual content, but where suspensions are concerned in general. 

"If you stream eight hours a day, at some point you might do something or say something that's like 'Oh yeah, I screwed up,'” Clancy said. “So we need to make sure we have a process by which strikes and offenses expire over time. When we first built these things, we weren't thinking we're gonna be here for 20 years. What happened 20 years ago or 5 years ago isn't all that relevant to whether or not I can trust you today.”

Clancy believes Twitch’s current rule set, in which a streamer can land an indefinite suspension after too many minor infractions, is outdated and opaque. This year, the plan is to change that.

"We've now moved away from this idea of three small offenses creating an extreme penalty. You might have penalties that escalate ... but in general, we'd like it to be that the thing that disincentivizes the behavior is the length of suspension," he said. "Right now we have people get suspended for one day, and they don't stream every day [anyway]. How does that inhibit behavior? But then [an] indefinite suspension for minor infractions is also a lot. So I think it's both having things expire and then looking through all of our policies so that eventually you get to where it can ratchet up, but it doesn't have to be indefinite."

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