Twitch adds mandatory content labels and clarifies 'we consider kissing or licking a microphone to fall within Sexual Themes'

A microphone set against a red background.
(Image credit: Skodonnell via Getty images.)

Twitch has added mandatory content labels for all streamers so that viewers "can make informed choices", and gone into some detail about what behaviours it wants labelled from now on. The labels replace the existing "Mature Content" toggle and can be applied or removed at any point during a broadcast.

The "Content Classification Labels" are:

  • Mature-Rated Games
  • Sexual Themes
  • Drugs, Intoxication, or Excessive Tobacco Use
  • Violent and Graphic Depictions
  • Significant Profanity or Vulgarity
  • Gambling

Twitch goes on to warn that should streamers fail to accurately label their content, the label will be applied by Twitch and they'll receive a warning. Should streamers persist after multiple warnings, their account can be locked for "days or weeks" depending on the circumstances. Interestingly enough, should a streamer be playing a game rated by the ESRB as for mature audiences only, a "mature-rated" content label will automatically be applied to the stream.

There's then an interesting FAQ where Twitch grapples with the big questions, such as if a streamer who swears occasionally will need the "significant profanity or vulgarity" label on their stream. This is very fuzzy stuff. Twitch says no, but says "cussing someone out in a game lobby" would require the label, so Limmy's screwed. "The occasional use of the 'f-word' or a genuine reaction to a moment in a horror game" would be fine however, which makes me wonder if the person who wrote this has ever seen a "genuine reaction" in their life, because that ain't what streamers do.

Other weirdly specific lines in the sand are drawn, almost all of which you just know are going to be stepped-on and smudged as streamers test the guidelines about. With the "drugs, intoxication, or excessive tobacco use" label, for example, sipping an alcoholic drink is apparently fine and doesn't need to be labelled but appearing "visibly intoxicated" or doing a stream focused on drinking would be. Smoking wouldn't need a label, but if you point out you're smoking then it does. And the potheads must label themselves as such: "use of marijuana in any form would require a label".

This gets most amusing when we come to "Sexual Themes", because one of Twitch's big problems historically is deciding where to draw the line on adult content. The US Supreme Court may not be able to define what crosses the line into the pornographic but Twitch is going to have a go, and says "prolonged or repeated kissing of another individual or object" needs a label, as does "non-educational discussions" of sexual topics and any behaviour "very likely to elicit a mature chat conversation".

So that's clear as mud. Things then take a turn towards the hot tub:

"Many ASMR practices are focused on mindfulness and are not sexual, but we consider kissing or licking a microphone to fall within Sexual Themes. Additionally, many Hot Tub streams are intended to draw attention to body parts such as the buttocks, groin, or breasts, and will need to be labeled".

The final label is for gambling, which has become an increasing focus for Twitch. Certain streamers gamble on-stream and partake in promotional events for slots sites and the like, and one of the world's biggest streamers xQc is known particularly for his gambling habit: to the extent that upstart streaming competitor Kick, which is very gambling friendly, just signed xQc for an unbelievable $100 million over two years. The young audience for streaming platforms raises major ethical questions about a platform hosting gambling streams and promoting the activity, and I'm unsure if just slapping a label on the problem will do much to confront them.

Either way, expect to see a lot more of these content labels. The labels are now live, and Twitch says it'll apply warnings from now but streamers won't begin to "accrue" them (which is how you get to the stricter punishments) until after July 20, 2023.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."