Content Warning: this piece contains details of child predatory behaviour and online abuse.
A new report has alleged that child predators use Twitch to target children using its streaming platform, and the company has now responded, calling the statistics “deeply upsetting”.
The report, published by Bloomberg, alleges that 1,976 Twitch users exhibited “unusual patterns of behaviour” indicating that many of them primarily exist on Twitch in order to catalogue, watch and manipulate children using the streaming service.
The study ran from October 2020 to August 2022, and in this almost two-year period it was alleges that 279,016 children were targeted by hundreds of accounts. These online predators could entice children to perform suggestive dances or explicit acts, the report found.
Twitch has responded to the report with an emailed statement emphasising the steps it has taken so far to address the security of minors on the platform. “Preventing child harm is one of our most fundamental responsibilities as a society,” it said. “We do not allow children under 13 to use Twitch, and preventing our service for being used for harm is one of our biggest priorities.”
Despite the fact that the platform is not meant to be used by under 13-year-olds, there is currently no verification process in place to confirm the age and identity of streamers unless they reach affiliate status, meaning they would qualify for payouts.
Twitch’s chief production officer Tom Verilli also commented on the report stating that, “Even one single instance of grooming is abhorrent to us, and if it’s valid, the data you reference demonstrates that we are not offering the level of protection we strive for yet – which is deeply upsetting.”
He went on to say to the work they do regarding online safety is “vitally important to everyone at Twitch” and that the company would never stop doing such work. Since the report began in 2020, Twitch claims to have quadrupled the size of its law enforcement response team which works in conjunction with the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children as well as the Tech Coalition which is a group focused on fighting online child sexual abuse.
According to IGN, a spokesperson for Twitch said that the platform has “numerous additional updates in development” with the aim of detecting and removing children and predators from the platform. If an instance of grooming is detected and confirmed on the platform, Twitch currently notifies authorities and proceeds to investigate the alleged predator and their networks. However, the Bloomberg report alleges that many instances of child grooming go unreported, meaning Twitch are unaware of the true extent of the issue.
Earlier in the week, Twitch slashed the income for its highest earning streamers, blaming the expense of hosting streams as the reason behind the decision.