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Twitch halts paid channel boosts after people pay to get porn on the front page

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In October 2021, Twitch began testing a new feature that enabled viewers to pay money to boost a streamer's channel to the site's front page in order to give it greater exposure. That experiment has now come to an end, at least for the time being, as troublemakers were taking advantage of the system to push porn to the top of the heap.

Boosting originally debuted in December 2020 using free channel points, pooled by viewers during Community Challenges. "When a boost challenge is successfully completed, we'll promote your stream into highly visible parts of Twitch like 'Live channels we think you'll like'," the Boost This Stream FAQ (opens in new tab) explains. "Promoting your stream helps improve your visibility and reach new audiences."

Paid boosts, first announced in September 2021, work in the same way, except that real money is involved. Unlike channel points, which are earned by following and watching channels, the only limiting factor with paid boosts is how much a person is willing to spend. Streamers themselves can also pay for the boost, effectively enabling them to buy their way onto the front page (or at least contribute to the effort).

The plan was not universally well-received: Many expressed concern that the system favored channels that are already popular, as they were in a better position to pay their way to the top. And unlike cheering or channel subscriptions, streamers made no money from the paid boosts: All of the money went to Twitch.

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A Twitch representative clarified that the Paid Boosts program ended in late 2021, but a similar new program called Boost Train (opens in new tab), which enables viewers to boost a channel by purchasing subscriptions and bits, went live early in March. And this is where things went sideways: On March 30, users on Twitter (opens in new tab) and Reddit (opens in new tab) began to notice live channels on the front page streaming porn. It was clear the channels in question were being boosted to the front page, as they were tagged with a "promoted by the streamer's community" label.

"Looks like determined trolls are literally paying for accounts with access to the Boost Train... and then literally creating hype trains to get porn onto the front page," streamer Zach Bussey tweeted (opens in new tab).

(Image credit: Twitch (via thenoosh22))

The Twitch rep confirmed that the Boost Train experiment has now been paused because of safety-related issues that came up during testing. Specific reasons for the halt weren't provided, nor did Twitch say whether Boost Train might be returned in some modified form in the future, but updates on new features aimed at improving channel discoverability will be shared when they become available.

Thanks, Dot Esports (opens in new tab).

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.