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Twitch’s new nudity policy allows illustrated nipples, but not human underboob

Twitch announced sweeping updates to its sexual content policy and content classification system, which now allows previously prohibited content like illustrated nipples and “erotic dances,” in addition to clarifying what nudity is and isn’t allowed on the platform.

The update follows the widespread “topless meta” backlash, after streamer and OnlyFans model Morgpie went viral for appearing naked in recent streams. Morgpie’s “topless” streams were framed to show her bare shoulders, upper chest, and cleavage. The framing implied nudity, but never actually showed content that explicitly violated Twitch’s sexual content policies. Other streamers, who were predominantly male, were enraged by Morgpie’s content and called for Twitch to crack down on the apparent nudity. She was banned on Dec. 11, two days before Twitch’s content guideline overhaul. Jessica Ly, a streamer who also goes by asianbunnyx, has made similar content without being banned.

The new policy is meticulously detailed and accounts for various situations, but also appears to contradict itself. Cartoon boobs, for example, are only allowed in certain contexts.

“Fictionalized” — drawings, animations or sculpted renderings — of fully-exposed breasts and any butts or genitals regardless of gender are fine, but “augmented reality avatars that translate real-life movement into digital characters” (read: VTubers) must abide by the same attire requirements as regular streamers. Actual female-presenting human nipples must be covered. Cleavage is still “unrestricted.” Showing “underbust” is still forbidden.

Twitch’s stance on sideboob remains unclear.

A spokesperson for Twitch told TechCrunch that the platform has been overhauling its content moderation for the past year, and has focused on updating its community guidelines in response to feedback from streamers. By clarifying what is and isn’t allowed, Twitch believes that it’ll be easier for streamers to comply with its policies. The spokesperson also noted that the platform is still experimenting with nuance and context, and rather than lean on punitive content moderation, Twitch wants users to be informed.

The update is supposed to streamline the platform’s approach to sexual content and modernize its previous policies, which disproportionately penalized female streamers. Twitch previously enforced separate policies for “sexually suggestive” and “sexually explicit” content, adding to the confusion. Those will now be consolidated into a single “Sexual Content Policy.” The company’s Content Classification Guidelines (CCLs), which rolled out in June, also now detail when streamers should label their content for “Sexual Themes.”

“We believe that accurate content labeling is key to helping viewers get the experience they expect, and now that we can enable appropriate labeling of sexual content using CCLS we believe that some of the restrictions in our former policies are no longer required,” Twitch said in its blog post about the update. “In addition to providing clarity, these updates will also reduce the risk of inconsistent enforcement and bring our policy more in line with other social media services.”

Under the new policy, streams tagged for “drugs, intoxication or excessive tobacco use,” “violent and graphic depictions,” “gambling” and “sexual themes” won’t be promoted on Twitch’s homepage recommendations, but will allow for more raunchy content that previously wasn’t allowed on the platform. This approach, Twitch said in its blog post, will prevent viewers from seeing content that they haven’t consented to seeing. Viewers will still be able to navigate directly to the channels streaming such content, though. Streams tagged for mature games and profanity can still be included in homepage recommendations.

Twitch did not immediately respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment about whether labeling their streams as containing such content will affect streamers’ ad revenue.

If properly labeled, content that was previously banned on the platform is now allowed, like artistic depictions of breast, butts and genitals. The puritanical restrictions on suggestive illustrations became a point of contention for Twitch’s art community, which Twitch acknowledged in its blog post. “Erotic dances,” like strip teases, twerking, grinding and pole dancing are also fine to stream, as long as it’s labeled. Streaming from a strip club or other “adult entertainment establishment” is still prohibited.

The updates appear to respond to longstanding community complaints over the disproportionate moderation that female streamers faced on Twitch. The company attempted to crack down on lewd and sexually explicit streams by enacting a dress code in 2018, which stated that streamer attire should be “appropriate for a public street, mall, or restaurant.” The platform updated its attire policy in 2020 with specific guidelines clarifying that streamers could show cleavage, but not nipples or underboob.

Although wildly popular hot tub streams were allowed under the guidelines, as long as streamers wore swimsuits, the attire policy still targeted women for wearing anything that could be interpreted as suggestive. Countless female streamers have been subjected to suspensions and outright bans over viewers mass-reporting them for inappropriate attire, and many have complained that the platform’s policy was wielded as a form of misogynistic, targeted harassment.

Twitch previously prohibited streams that “deliberately highlighted breasts, buttocks or pelvic region,” even if streamers were fully clothed. The parameters for such content were vague and inconsistently enforced. It’s now allowed — as long as it’

“Streamers found it difficult to determine what was prohibited and what was allowed and often evaluating whether or not a stream violated this portion of the policy was subjective,” Twitch said in its announcement. “In addition, the former Sexually Suggestive Content policy was out of line with industry standards and resulted in female-presenting streamers being disproportionately penalized.”

In its Sexual Content Policy, Twitch notes that the attire allowed on the platform depends on the context of individual streams. An outfit that’s permitted for a beach or gym stream, Twitch said in its Community Guidelines, may “not be acceptable for a cooking or gameplay broadcast.” The company also said that attired “intended to be sexually suggestive” is still prohibited, which seems like it could still disproportionately affect female streamers who can be sexualized by viewers no matter what they wear.

Morgpie, who is still banned, praised Twitch’s update in a statement to Dexerto.

“With the updated terms of service, content on Twitch containing mature themes will be allowed but no longer pushed on the homepage of the site,” she said. “I think this is the best possible outcome, because it gives creators much more freedom, while also keeping this content from reaching the wrong audience. Bravo, Twitch!”

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