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Twitch sues users who posted porn, racism, and more to Artifact stream page

A capture shows the flood of "Ayaya" anime meme streams that took over Twitch's Artifact stream page in May.
Enlarge / A capture shows the flood of “Ayaya” anime meme streams that took over Twitch’s Artifact stream page in May.

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, Twitch accuses 100 unnamed defendants of breaking its terms of service by flooding the site’s directory of Artifact game streams with inappropriate content, including “a video of the March 2019 Christchurch mosque attack, hardcore pornography, copyrighted movies and television shows, and racist and misogynistic videos.”

Inappropriate or irrelevant streams are nothing new on Twitch, of course. The company’s Trust and Safety team uses a variety of moderation tools to take down streams that violate the site’s terms of service and ban the users behind them. But the company is taking the added step of a lawsuit in this case because, according to the complaint, “Defendants’ actions threatened and continue to threaten Twitch and the safety of the Twitch community.”

“Twitch took down the posts and banned the offending accounts, but the offensive video streams quickly reappeared using new accounts,” the complaint continues. “It appears that Defendants use automated methods to create accounts and disseminate offensive material as well as to thwart Twitch’s safety mechanisms.”

The attack had a direct effect on Twitch’s business and user base, the complaint alleges, since many viewers “were understandably upset and on information and belief some users stopped or reduced their use of the Twitch Services.” In addition, “To protect the Twitch community, Twitch took the extremely disruptive step of disabling streaming for all newly created accounts for almost two days before imposing two-factor authentication for certain accounts.”

According to the lawsuit, a group of users coordinated the posting of these illicit streams via Google, Discord, Weebly, and a custom site at ArtifactStreams.com. An archived version of that site contains a listing of “active troll Twitch streams” and links to chat rooms to discuss the effort with others.

Use of the Twitch logo on ArtifactStreams.com amounts to copyright infringement, the complaint says, while the posting of the streams themselves amounts to breach of contract, trespass to chattels, and fraud. Twitch is seeking monetary relief and a permanent legal injunction barring the defendants from posting on Twitch in the future.

“We take these violations extremely seriously,” Twitch said in a statement provided to PC Gamer. “We are pursuing litigation to identify these bad actors, and will take all appropriate actions to protect our community.”

The targeting of Twitch’s Artifact directory, which Twitch says started on May 25, comes as Valve’s heavily hyped card game appears to be circling the drain toward irrelevance in the highly competitive online card game space. As of this writing, the game only has four live streams and 30 live viewers on Twitch, compared to hundreds of streams and 17,000 viewers for Hearthstone. Tracking by Steam Charts shows a maximum of only 153 simultaneous players in the last 24 hours.

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