Twitch sort of announces a ban on words like “virgin”, “simp”, and, presumably, “fartface”

It's harmful unless it isn't.


It’s a question that will resonate with anyone who’s gamed online with friends: when do words that are meant to be good-natured become something more? One of the biggest streaming platforms in the world has announced that it has come up with an answer. Sort of. Twitch is banning words harmful to others. Unless, that is, words that include “incel”, “virgin” and “simp” are being used in a way that’s not harmful.

Sound confusing? Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Even Twitch seems to be having trouble getting across what its new policy is.

News of the move to ban hurtful terms was first announced in a town hall meeting yesterday spearheaded by Twitch chief operating officer Sara Clemens. The meeting was to reveal upcoming changes and new features. But it was also used to address the very real issue of online harassment and bullying.

“Using terms like simp, incel, or virgin to refer as an insult to negatively refer to another person’s sexual activity is not allowed under this new policy,” Clemens announced. “In addition to the new policy change, we are actively denying emotes that include the term simp and will remove them when reported.”

“Fartface”, “dummy”, “dillbag”!

Gamers who—rightly or wrongly—can’t get online and play Rocket League or Overwatch without referring to each others as “dumbass”, “cretin”, “moron”, “fartface”, “loser”, “dummy” and “dillbag” immediately pushed the panic button. Evidently when your friends and fellow esports fans are in fact simpletons, virgins, and involuntarily celibate, you have a God-given right to call a spade a spade.

This led to Twitch clarifying its position a few hours later. Basically, the platform won’t take enforcement action against casual players, professional streamers, and those who like to watch unless hurtful words are “used repeatedly in a harassing manner”.

Which presumably means you can continue using terms like “asswipe”, “dinkface”, “fartknocker”, “flatus-huffer”, “meat-beater”, “scheisse for brains”, “Willy Wanker”, “weasel”, “anus”, “Kim Jong Kitchen Kabinet” and “rhymes with ‘bunt’” all you want until someone complains about being harassed. And, presumably—even though we’ve always welcomed all insults while running around the streets of Grand Theft Auto wearing nothing but a pink top hat and a smile—that’s kind of how Twitch has always policed its users.

As for the rest of you, you’ve been warned: Twitch is banning words harmful to others. Sort of.

Mike Usinger once took the better part of two years to finish Grand Theft Auto. Over the course of his career he has written about everything from eSports to music to movies to travel.

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