Last week we wrote about Paul Denino, a Twitch streamer who was kicked off his flight in Phoenix, Arizona after one of his viewers called in a fake bomb threat under his name. Ice_Poseidon, as Denino is known online, was broadcasting to Twitch from the airport terminal, which made him easy to target and inconvenience along with every passenger on the plane. In a confusing turn of events, Twitch has since suspended Denino's channel, and it's not clear why.
The plane incident raises a difficult question. "Swatting," or the practice of making fake calls to the police in order to have them raid someone, is a dangerous and well-known form of online harassment, but people are usually targeted in their homes. When that is the case, a potential target can contact their local police station and warn the cops that they are likely to get calls with fake threats, thereby reducing the risk of a SWAT team kicking in their front door.
But what about people who are broadcasting their location while they are traveling? Are they supposed to call in advance and warn every airline, hotel, and venue they'll use? How is Twitch—which last year launched "IRL," a whole category on its site dedicated to people streaming their normal, day-to-day lives—going to respond to this? If a Twitch streamer gets swatted at a restaurant, who is responsible?
For now, it seems, the company's way to deal with these incidents is to ban the streamer who is being swatted. If this is true, Twitch would be essentially blaming and penalizing swatting victims.
Denino's Twitch channel is indeed currently closed "due to terms of service violations," and while we don't know the reason for sure, Denino explained in a YouTube video that Twitch will hold streamers responsible for getting swatted in public.
"People calling restaurants and swatting (in irl) and all that jazz is against the rules and could potentially get a streamer banned, but twitch isn't telling any streamers this so I am. (im assuming they're going to add these specifics to the [Terms of Service] now)," Denino wrote in a Reddit post.
When I asked Twitch why Denino's channel was banned and if he violated the company's terms of service, the company said "We don't comment on terms of service violations."
At the time of writing, Twitch's terms of service and community guidelines do not say anything about whether a streamer is allowed to broadcast their location or what to do in case that location is getting swatted.
In fact, Twitch's 'IRL FAQ" encourages streamers to get out in the world and share their experiences.
"IRL s a new category that lets your Twitch community see who you are in real-life. Within IRL, you can directly interact with your viewers in a one-to-many vlog-like style," Twitch says. "This includes sharing your live experiences when you are not at the computer or uploading videos of your daily thoughts, opinions, and anything else on your mind. Core to this category is talking to the camera and actively interacting and sharing with your community."
For now, Denino said in the video, he's not in a rush to appeal the ban and get back on Twitch. Instead, Denino said he's taking his live streams to the competing service YouTube Live.
"YouTube actually did invited me to a VIP section of VidCon to talk about how to create YouTube Live and make it the direct competition to Twitch," he said.