The company announced on Tuesday that it will require mandatory phone verification for live streams and it will terminate accounts belonging to users younger than 13. This forms part of the company’s efforts as it continues to root out predators on the platform popular among young kids.
“Grooming is particularly insidious because it can be hidden in plain sight, and there are fewer established industry practices for detecting it”, said Twitch in a blog post this week.
In addition to blocking accounts belonging to users younger than 13. Twitch will block users previously suspended for being under 13 from creating new accounts.
We know teens (and some adults) lie to the internet about their age. The platform says its new changes are coming into effect “in order to better prevent any users under 13 who made accounts with false age information from going live and putting themselves at risk before we’re able to identify and remove their account.”
Some search terms and phrases have also been blocked on Whispers’ default privacy settings, the platform’s direct messaging feature.
Read More: Protecting children in the metaverse: it’s easy to blame big tech, but we all have a role to play
How predators find your kids
The tweak in its rules comes after Bloomberg News published a report, in September, on the pervasive growth of child predators on Twitch due to insufficient moderation tools on the platform. Bloomberg revealed that 70% of people on the follower lists of 1 976 accounts were teens and children. Data collected on live-streaming websites noted how predators target 279 016 accounts belonging to teens and children. The report prompted UK’s internet regulator, Ofcom, to address the protection of children with Twitch.
Ofcom says it is actively reviewing whether Twitch’s measures are robust enough to prevent harmful material from being uploaded.
Twitch broadcasts in 35 languages daily with 2.5 million hours of live content. The website relies on its users to report issues, leaving children vulnerable to abuse if no one or few people report an issue. Its discovery feature also makes it easy for predators to discover children, who often appear with fewer followers. Predators often follow accounts with fewer followers. According to Bloomberg, a predator revealed how they used Twitch’s ‘recently started’ feature to find accounts with lower follower numbers – which they say often indicates accounts belonging to children. Bloomberg says an account with lower numbers attracted 165 viewers within 35 minutes. The platform removed its ‘recently started’ feature in 2020 hoping the move would deter predators.
The company says it will prioritise reports that involve children younger than 13 so it can quickly resolve related issues. It plans to do so by refining the moderation technology used by its staff.
Unlike Twitch, other popular streaming services including YouTube and TikTok have restrictions and standards for their streaming service. On mobile devices, YouTube requires a user to have at least 50 subscribers and no live-streaming restrictions for 90 days prior to streaming. YouTube also restricts live-stream search results for users younger than 17. A user needs to be 18 years and older with at least 100 followers to stream on TikTok.
Twitch says it can’t reveal all its cards, in case the predators are reading.
“These updates are by no means exhaustive, nor are they an endpoint for our efforts. Much of what we’ve been doing, as well as much of what we have planned, must remain private to be effective,” says Twitch.