A controversy over so-called "hot tub streamers" blew up earlier this week when Twitch suspended advertising on the channel belonging to Kaitlyn "Amouranth" Siragusa, one of the platform's most popular streamers, without notification. The issue, she was later informed, is that Twitch had deemed her streams as "not advertiser friendly," even though they don't actually violate Twitch's content guidelines.
Today, Twitch directly addressed the controversy in a blog post, and also unveiled a new approach to helping users and advertisers avoid (or embrace) streams featuring hot tubs and bathing suits (and those which might be deemed overly suggestive) that's actually quite simple and practical: The introduction of a new category called Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches.
Twitch began by stating flatly that no streamer deserves to be harassed for their content or appearance, and that "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."
It also acknowledged that its policies, including restrictions on "overtly" sexually suggestive content, lack specificity, which can sometimes result in legitimate confusion. Much of it is also subjective.
"Sexually suggestive content—and where to draw the line—is an area that is particularly complex to assess, as sexual suggestiveness is a spectrum that involves some degree of personal interpretation of where the line falls (as opposed to determining whether or not there is nudity)," Twitch said. "We will always aim to avoid being overly punitive based on assumptions—when we have taken enforcement action on this content, we’ve only done so in the case of a clear violation of our guidelines."
Similarly, Twitch said the catch-all nature of the "Just Chatting" has also proven to be a challenge: Viewers can mark channels as "not interested." But because many streamers switch in and out of the "Just Chatting" category during a single stream, it is "not an effective way to remove a specific subset of content, like creators streaming in pools or hot tubs." Thus, the addition of the new category, which is specifically for streamers who choose to stream while wearing swimwear. Twitch said this isn't meant to be a long-term solution, but aside from the requisite tweaking and tuning that's bound to follow, I'm really not sure why not, because it sounds like an eminently practical approach.
"Creators can continue to stream content that falls into this category as long as it doesn’t violate our guidelines," Twitch wrote. "Viewers can better avoid recommendations for content that they don’t want to see, and those wishing to view this content will have an easier time finding it. And brands can either opt-in or -out of this category based on whether it aligns with their target audiences, like they can today with any other category."
The detailed guidelines for Hot Tubs, Pools, and Beaches are available here, but the first rule is really all you need to know: new category, same functionality. You can stream the same content as in any other category—chatting, gaming, whatever—and switch into other categories if your content changes. But if you're streaming in a swimsuit, this is the place to do it.
Siragusa indicated on Twitter that she's been in touch with Twitch about the new category, and apparently inquired about a possible return of the IRL (In Real Life) category, which was removed in 2018. It doesn't sound like that's in the cards: "They seem to want greater granularity in categories," she said.
The addition of the new category won't keep advertisers from disassociating with channel content they see as inappropriate, but it will at least draw a clearer line for streamers, and presumably make content moderation somewhat simpler for Twitch too. As for why Twitch suspended Siragusa's advertising without notification, it admitted a mistake: Twitch will occasionally remove ads from certain channels at the advertiser's request, which is what happened here, but it failed to notify the impacted streamers ahead of time. It's now working with the streamers in question to address their concerns and restore ads where appropriate.
The Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches category is live now, and it's already a hopping place. Even we've joined in: