Twitch muzzles Trump: Platform suspends president’s channel for ‘hateful conduct’

July 1, 2020

Twitch— the live-streaming platform that millions of people use to chat, interact, and make their own entertainment together—announced on Monday, June 29, that it was suspending Donald Trump’s personal channel for “hateful conduct,” in what appeared to be the first deliberate suspension of one of the president’s social media accounts, The New York Times reported.

The site, which is owned by Amazon, said two recent streams on. Trump’s channel violated its rules:

  • One stream was of a rebroadcasted 2015 campaign event in which Donald Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” adding, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
  • The other stream documented the president’s May 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he described a scenario involving an immigrant in the following way: “It’s one o’clock in the morning,” Trump said, and “a very tough hombre is breaking into the window of a young woman, whose husband is away, as a traveling salesman or whatever he may do. And you call 911, and they say, ‘I’m sorry this number is no longer working.’”

“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a Twitch spokesperson said in a statement. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”

It was unclear how long the suspension would last.

With its move, Twitch went further than other social media platforms, the Times noted. In recent months, some tech companies have become more proactive in handling speech issues by Trump and his supporters. Twitter began adding labels to some of the president’s tweets; Snap has said it will stop promoting Mr. Trump’s Snapchat account; and Reddit on Monday said it would ban “The_Donald” community, which had been a highly influential digital gathering place for Trump’s acolytes.

But unlike those efforts, Twitch directly clamped down on the president himself, temporarily shutting down his ability to post videos on a channel. The only other time when the president had one of his social media accounts suspended was by accident in 2017, when his Twitter account was unexpectedly disabled by a rogue contractor who was leaving Twitter that day.

One company that has maintained it does not want to police free speech is Facebook. Last week, the social network announced it would expand its hate speech policies and label posts from political figures who violate rules as “newsworthy.” But the labels, which do not explain what is inaccurate or hateful about a post, fall short of what Twitter and other companies have done.

Twitch’s suspension of Mr. Trump comes as the platform, which is popular with gamers, is under fire for other instances of hateful rhetoric. Streamers have accused it of allowing racist and sexist comments to thrive unchecked, and the company said last week it would permanently suspend a handful of users after a torrent of sexual harassment and assault allegations rocked the video game industry.

Cindy Otis, a disinformation expert and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told the Times that Twitch’s suspension of the president might pressure other companies to ratchet up their actions.

“You have to sort of wonder, if smaller platforms start taking more aggressive or harder action on what they consider harmful content or on the disinformation side — will that end up pressuring the larger platforms to do more as well?”. Otis asked.

But, she added, “If stuff gets removed from one platform, it simply migrates to another.”

The Trump campaign did not directly address the actions by Twitch and Reddit on Monday. Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, said in a statement that people should download the Trump campaign app or text the campaign’s automated number to “hear directly from the president.”

Twitch is not one of Mr. Trump’s top social media channels, according to the Times report. His channel began streaming on the service last October, amassing more than 125,000 followers and 113 streams, compared with his more than 83 million followers on Twitter.

Research contact: @nytimes

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