Twitch's new AutoMod tool uses "machine learning" to create less toxic chat

Twitch has just launched a new tool called AutoMod that makes use of "machine learning and natural language processing" to help streamers keep inappropriate chat out of their channels. Rather than simply blocking instances of the seven things you can't say on television (or whatever it is you don't want paraded in front of your viewers), AutoMod can detect strings of emotes or other characters that could be used to evade filtering, and gives channel owners the ability to adjust the degree of filtering so that chat can be more or less unpleasant, as so desired. Potentially offensive messages are held in a queue, until a human moderator decides whether or not they get a pass. 

"What makes Twitch a leader in moderation, beyond our ever vigilant team of Admin moderators, is that we equip streamers with a robust set of tools and allow them to appoint trusted moderators straight from their communities to protect the integrity of their channels,” Twitch moderation lead Ryan Kennedy said. “This allows creators to focus more on producing great content and managing their communities. By combining the power of humans and machine learning, AutoMod takes that a step further. For the first time ever, we’re empowering all of our creators to establish a reliable baseline for acceptable language and around the clock chat moderation." 

AutoMod has been in development and testing for months, and underwent a "successful trial run" during the Republican and Democratic National Convention livestreams, which Twitch said "were commended for the civil discourse in chat." It will continue to review the service and its use, both site-wide and on a per-channel basis, to ensure that AutoMod remains effective now that it's live. 

Along with its utility as a moderation tool, Twitch said AutoMod also dovetails with its internal and external inclusivity initiatives, including TwitchCon panels dedicated to LGBT, people of color, and women in gaming, and its Inclusivity City partnership with AnyKey. "One of the best ways we can help bring about change is to provide tools and education that empower all types of voices to be heard," programming manager and Inclusivity Group lead Anna Prosser Robinson said. "AutoMod is one of those tools, and we hope it will encourage our users to join us in our continued focus on fostering a positive environment on social media." 

Twitch is a powerful tool, but as we said in our March report on TerrenceM's Dreamhack Hearthstone experience, it can also be an absolutely depressing experience for women and minorities. I worry a bit that the rollout of AutoMod will encourage abusive users to dig for ways to beat the system, but I also hope very much that it works as intended. No tool is perfect, but every step taken toward giving people the ability to more easily and effectively filter that kind of garbage is a welcome one.  

AutoMod is currently only available in English, but  Arabic, Czech, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish versions are in beta testing. Streamers can activate the tool via an option on their Twitch Settings page. I for one welcome our new robot [message deleted].

Andy Chalk

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.