Artifact is a relatively unknown game with fewer than 100 viewers on average. It was unusual, then, when it suddenly gained traction on Twitch on May 25, 2019. The result of the coordinated efforts of a handful of trolls, pornography, violence, and other terms of service violations surged through the game’s Twitch section. Now, as reported by Kotaku, Twitch is out for blood.
Perhaps not blood, as that would violate their terms of service, but at least out for some legal ramifications.
Twitch Interactive is a huge streaming service. One that boasts nearly three million new streamers per month on the platform, streaming anything from games, to art, to “in real life” content, as mentioned in the parties section of their lawsuit. The platform, like many social media platforms, utilizes categories to organize its content. Users find their desired games and topics by browsing these categories. Trolls, however, can abuse them as much as use them.
Artifact is a quiet game from Valve (Steam’s parent company). The Steam page describes the game as “The card game reimagined!” The game itself is just that, a digital trading card game that is very much like Yu-Gi-Oh for us 90s kids. Its reviews are “overwhelmingly negative,” but the fans that love the game love the game.
The lack of popularity and the low viewer count made Artifact the ideal target for trolls. As detailed in the lawsuit, on May 25, 2019, trolls used bots and other means to violate Twitch’s terms of service and get around safety measures. Pretending to stream Artifact, these users flooded the category with pornographic, misogynistic, and racist content. Violence wasn’t forgotten. Many even streamed the events of the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand on these channels. To boost their viewer count and make sure the casual Twitch browser was more likely to stumble on their pages, they used bots. “As the streamer’s viewer count increases, his or her stream becomes easier to find for Twitch users seeking content,” as stated in paragraph 38 of the document. While Twitch was quick to respond, they quickly remade new accounts to continue broadcasting, as the lawsuit details.
Twitch details in their lawsuit that the parties are currently unknown, as they avoided detection with automated methods of registration. The streaming giant was forced to delete all new accounts made two days before the event. Since the parties are unknown, Twitch hopes to identify them at a later date and use that information to bar them from using its services ever again. The document concludes that Twitch, the plaintiff, demands a jury trial for the case.
Since the defendants, in this case, remain unknown, it might just be Twitch hoping to scare off future copycats, but Twitch may also seek some legal retribution for their actions. Either way, the presence of a lawsuit is a suitable preventative measure for future events.