Twitch’s chat function is unquestionably integral to the success of the platform; it lets people connect with one another, interact with the streamer, and, in the best cases, build community. But just as often, especially in the larger streams, Twitch chat is full of racism, homophobia, and misogyny. The only thing keeping the trolls at bay is usually an overworked crew of moderators, many of which donate their time to a stream’s community, and those brave souls can’t always keep up with the deluge of messages that high viewer counts bring in.
Today, Twitch announced the release of a new tool to help streamers keep out the trash: AutoMod. In the press release, Twitch explained how AutoMod works: “When a user sends a message that AutoMod flags as potentially inappropriate, the message is held in a publishing queue awaiting moderator approval…Beyond identifying inappropriate words and phrases, AutoMod can detect potentially inappropriate strings of emotes and other characters or symbols that others could use to evade filtering.”
While channel owners could already filter out specific words, that rarely deterred the more creative trolls. AutoMod should at the very least make it more difficult for toxic users to dominate the chat in streams that employ the new tool. It’s even customizable for individual streams, enabling “broadcasters to adjust the degree of filtering in the event they are more or less conservative about the type of dialogue they want to see in their chat.”
This will hopefully make the sudden explosions of hateful messages in chat that we’ve seen at major events a thing of the past
AutoMod isn’t straight out of the lab, either; it’s been battle-tested in one of the most hostile streaming environments of the year, the 2016 Republican and Democratic national conventions, which Twitch claims “were commended for the civil discourse in chat.” If that’s legit, then AutoMod’s machine-learning has truly been forged in the crucible of war.
The official AutoMod app is only available in English, while a Beta version is available in Arabic, Czech, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. I can imagine the relief a tool like AutoMod will provide for streamers with overworked teams of moderators. In the realm of esports, this will hopefully make the sudden explosions of hateful messages in chat that we’ve seen at major events a thing of the past. Watching live events with a passionate online audience is exciting, but it does tend to lose its charm when every fourth message could be peeled out of the pages of Mein Kampf.