Twitch has filed a lawsuit against seven makers of "view-bots, follow-bots, and chat-impersonation bots" designed to artificially inflate the viewer and follower counts of Twitch streamers. Bots are a “persistent frustration,” Marketing SVP Matthew DiPietro wrote in a blog post announcing the action, that “have created a very real problem that has damaging effects across our entire community.”
“Sometimes these bots are used by a broadcaster who believes the perception of higher viewership and social activity will put them on the fast-track to success or Twitch partnership. Other times, bots are used to harass other broadcasters in order to attempt to deny them partnership, or get their channel suspended,” he wrote. “All of this is enabled by bot services offered by a handful of sellers who make misleading claims for their own commercial benefit.”
Twitch employs “technological solutions” that can detect and remove false viewers—that is, bots—and its moderators and support teams regularly investigate and deal with reports of inflated viewer and follower count. The lawsuit represents a “third layer,” DiPietro said, in its efforts to protect “Twitch viewers and broadcasters from the damaging effects of this kind of malicious activity.”
The full complaint, available here, gives a quick rundown of how Twitch's Partnership Program works, and then gets into exactly how bots “disrupt” it. “Defendants offer bot services intended to deceive Twitch into believing that broadcasters are more popular than they really are. Defendants claim that their services will artificially inflate broadcasters' viewership to make their channels appear higher in directories and trick Twitch into accepting broadcasters into the Partnership Program, with its promise of additional revenue,” it says. “These deceptive actions inflate viewer statistics for some channels while harming legitimate broadcaster channels by decreasing their discoverability. That, in turn, hurts the quality of the experience community members have come to expect from Twitch.”
Among the allegations made in the suit are federal trademark infringement, unfair competition, cybersquatting, fraud, breach of contract, and tortious interference. Twitch is seeking injunctions against the bot-makers, transfer of possession of their domains, an order barring payment processors from providing them with service, and restitution, legal fees, punitive damages, and whatever else the court feels like throwing in.
“Ultimately though, the best way to stop viewbot sellers from profiting off of empty promises is to not buy their services,” DiPietro wrote. “Using viewbots hurts anyone using them on their own channel or found to be using them against other channels, as well as the Twitch community at large.” Information on how to handle bots, should you encounter one, is available here.