Twitch’s Problem With Bots and What You Can Do

For the past couple of months Twitch has been dealing with a severe problem of bots. Unlike bots that would appear in chat offering to sell streamers views to increase their discoverability or raid/host streamers. This time someone has been using bots for malicious purposes. Bots would follow streamers and then use them to “hate raid” by spamming racist, sexist, and derogatory messages ruining the stream.

Unfortunately for Twitch, they were slow to make a response on this issue as this is the first time that someone used bots on a scale that reached across the entire website following every streamer no matter how big or small their viewership to harass streamers. While they did host a single creator camp stream addressing the issue and bring up tools to mitigate the problem, the reception from streamers was not well received as streamers had lofty expectations that tools would be developed to stop bots from following their streams and stop hate raids outright.

Finally, Twitch has announced on their blog that they updated their moderation settings updating their channel privileges settings. Originally, streamers could require viewers to verify their e-mail address if they want to use the chat room. Now in addition to e-mail verification, Twitch has added not only phone verification but options on who needs to verify their phone or email based on how long their account has existed or by how long they have followed a streamer’s channel. Also, exemptions of verification exist for subscribers, VIP, and moderators.

One other benefit using either verification adds is that any banned accounts will also ban alternate accounts that use the same e-mail or cell phone. Meaning users or bots using the same e-mail address to create multiple accounts will also be banned from a streamer’s channel.

One downside about this feature however is that if the streamer requires phone verification, the viewer will be required to provide a cell phone number to verify their account. Any viewers that don’t have a cell phone will not be able to participate in chat.

While expanding verification options is an overall good. The reality is that combining the rarely used moderator tool /followers with phone or e-mail verification only kicks the can down the road and does not address the actual problem of bots and bots being used for hate raids. Assuming the streamer or their moderators don’t take the time to ban the bots, if the channel is using the “some chatters must have a verified e-mail/phone” setting, the bots just having to wait a period of time before they can “hate raid” a channel.

I commend Twitch being completely honest that botting is a constant issue. Because the bots have been a problem across all websites no matter how big or small. The barrier of entry to create an account has always to just create an e-mail address, if Twitch makes that process more complicated it will prevent growth. Same how simple chat room are programmed. The verification options do nothing to stop any hateful messages being sent over chat.

The best way to mitigate any “hate raids” or viewers that want to be hostile is for streamers to take the time, do the administrative work, and block language that offends them. Which means using Twitch’s Automod, blocking words that you find offensive, and use third party bots like StreamElements or Streamlabs as both have features to stop spamming words or symbols as well as support markdown language to prevent iterations of the same word being used. If you’re a streamer, take the time and implement these tools.

Symbol Protection stops ASCII art which is notoriously spammed on Twitch

Bots have been on Twitch since the site existed. Companies use bots to sell their product and streamers have bought bots to increase their viewership to increase their discoverability. The only change is that now bots are being used to harass people because hate has become a commodity on the internet.

Consider Twitch’s new verification as a stopgap measure and you should use it. Phone and Email Verification will certainly stop the bulk of bots as programmers who make these bots are people just like you or me. Even the smallest barrier is enough to stop people because they won’t want to put in the effort to get over that barrier. So put in that work because it will only make you and your community stronger showing that you aren’t going to succumb to fear and hate.