On Wednesday, an automated alert about Twitch account bans included a somewhat surprising account name: “@DonaldTrump.” The surprise came because Twitch had already “indefinitely suspended” the former president’s official Twitch channel on January 7 in the wake of his January 6 speech inciting a seditious riot at the US Capitol.
Following this Wednesday alert, Twitch confirmed to Ars Technica that this was no accident: Trump’s account is indeed outright banned. Twitch continues to call the ban an “indefinite suspension,” but it has not offered any timeline for its return or steps that its account holders (either Trump himself or any representatives) may take to reverse the decision. Wednesday’s news lines up with a Tuesday claim by DW News reporter Dana Regev, who had hinted at Twitch waiting until after President Joe Biden’s inauguration to make a firmer ruling on the previous ban.
The service took the rare step of outlining the exact reason for the ban, a courtesy generally not reserved to those affected. This lack of clarity emerged in particular when Twitch offered no explanation for banning Guy “DrDisrespect” Beahm in the wake of spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
In Trump’s case, Twitch cited “the ongoing risk of further incitement of violence” as a primary reason for the ban. The statement, as issued to Ars Technica by a Twitch representative, continued:
The President’s statements continue to be interpreted as calls to action, and we are taking this action to remove the potential for harm to our community and the general public.
Twitch has clear rules that prohibit hateful conduct, harassment, or incitement of violence on our service, and we consider off-service events when making enforcement decisions. However, the events of the past weeks have highlighted a gap with respect to rhetoric that encourages violence, regardless of whether or not it was directly streamed on Twitch. We will be updating our policies as a result of our consideration of this situation.
Twitch has recently enacted sweeping new rules to allow moderators to take context into account when deciding whether content qualifies as “hateful” speech. In December, the company’s official channel cited specific gamer slang terms as examples of this context-sensitive approach, but the resulting video became widely cited as being an official ban on certain words and a hint of jargon whack-a-mole as opposed to an example of sweeping moderation changes to come.
Today’s statement strongly hints that Twitch’s rule-changing stance is far from over and that the company is clearly looking to enforce the rules, based on statements made outside of Twitch video streams.
Feels bad, man
The @DonaldTrump account, launched in October 2019, was used to either livestream or rebroadcast official Trump speeches and affiliated events as opposed to hosting the service’s usual gaming-related video streams—all while hosting a chat channel for the account’s followers. Twitch has long faced issues with chat toxicity, particularly with many streamers continuing to embrace the “Pepe frog” meme without denouncing white supremacists’ embrace of the icon (a fact that led its original creator to sue those who co-opted the image without his consent).
Trump’s Twitch account had been in hot water previously due to its rebroadcasts of rule-breaking speeches. His channel’s last temporary ban, enacted on June 29, happened because it had aired his notorious statements about Mexico “sending… rapists” to the United States.