In December, Twitch relaxed its rules to allow for “artistic depictions of nudity” in streams—things like “content that ‘deliberately highlighted breasts, buttocks or pelvic region,’”—as long as it was labelled as containing “sexual themes.” Two days later, following “community concern,” it chickened out and walked the changes back: “Moving forward, depictions of real or fictional nudity won’t be allowed on Twitch, regardless of the medium,” CEO Dan Clancy said.
Today Twitch further firmed up its no-nudity rules with an update to its attire policy that prohibits “implied nudity” in streams. The change comes in reaction to a recent meta in which streamers used objects, black censor bars, or strategic camera positioning to make themselves look fully or partially nude—even though, as Twitch acknowledged, most of them were clothed, and thus were not actually violating any rules.
“While most streamers have labeled this content appropriately with the Sexual Themes label and are wearing clothing behind the object or outside the camera frame, for many users, the thumbnails of this content can be disruptive to their experience on Twitch,” chief customer trust officer Angenla Hession wrote.
“While content labeled with the Sexual Themes label isn’t displayed on the home page, this content is displayed within the category browse directories, and we recognize that many users frequent these pages to find content on Twitch.”
In other words, it’s not enough to be wearing clothes, streamers have to be seen to be wearing clothes so people won’t think that maybe they’re not wearing clothes, even though it’s impossible to see the bits we’re not supposed to see if they weren’t because they’re covered up—just not by clothing, except that in most cases they actually are covered up by clothing, but you can’t see it so it doesn’t count. Got it?
It’s all made clear in the updated attire guidelines below, with the new editions in bold:
We don’t permit streamers to be fully or partially nude, including exposing genitals or buttocks. Nor do we permit streamers to imply or suggest that they are fully or partially nude, including, but not limited to, covering breasts or genitals with objects or censor bars. We do not permit the visible outline of genitals, even when covered. Broadcasting nude or partially nude minors is always prohibited, regardless of context.
For those who present as women, we ask that you cover your nipples and do not expose underbust. Cleavage is unrestricted as long as these coverage requirements are met and it is clear that the streamer is wearing clothing.
For all streamers, you must cover the area extending from your hips to the bottom of your pelvis and buttocks.
The “attire exception” clause remains in place, meaning streamers can let it (almost) all hang out as long as they’re within reasonable proximity of a pool, hot tub, or beach, and use the Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches category for their stream. Proper coverage is still vital, though: Swimwear in these streams must be fully opaque and completely cover the genitals, “and those who present as women must also cover their nipples.”
As over-complicated as some of this language is, it’s admittedly a tough spot for Twitch. Striking a balance between acceptable “artistic” nudity (whatever that is), allowable hot tub jiggle time, and the kind of clothes-off action that scares away advertisers is a tricky, never-ending process, and as Joshua said in December when the rules were initially relaxed, it’s probably “doomed to be a fuzzy distinction forever.”
Yet in spite of that inherent complexity, Twitch seems determined to cook up a magical formula that will enable it to reduce everything to a simple, easy-to-moderate state of black and white, with no room for misinterpretation or accidental violation: This is allowed, this is not, easy peasy!
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the last couple of years of watching Twitch try to keep a lid on the skin shows, it’s that streamers are creative, unpredictable, and will push whatever boundaries they can to boost their audiences. It’s perfectly understandable that Twitch doesn’t want to become Pornhub for gamers (Kick arguably has that covered), but the shifting micro-definitions of what’s acceptable on the platform project some instability.