“Obscene, pornographic, or otherwise objectionable”: Biased definitions of sexual content in video game live streaming

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Abstract

This article articulates and critiques the ways that Twitch, currently the most popular platform for video game live streaming, defines sexual content through its community guidelines, terms of service, and other policy documents. On Twitch, both streamers and viewers are prohibited from posting sexually explicit or suggestive content. This includes images that appear in games as well as on-camera performances. Twitch presents defining sexual content as a matter of common sense and community protection; however, what counts as “sexual content” is far from objective. This analysis reveals that Twitch’s definition of sexual content is in fact vague, subjective, and contradictory and enables discrimination. These policy documents reflect problematic social biases, such as those against women in gaming spaces. Twitch’s policies also reflect anxieties about the relationship between live streaming and webcam-based sex work. This article challenges the sexist cultural logics that shape these policy documents and, by extension, Twitch’s platform politics.

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APA

Ruberg, B. (2021). “Obscene, pornographic, or otherwise objectionable”: Biased definitions of sexual content in video game live streaming. New Media and Society, 23(6), 1681–1699. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820920759

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