Twitch lands in 'hot tub' of water

Twitch lands in 'hot tub' of water

Twitch has been around for 14 years, but its user base started picking up in India in the last two years.

The ‘hot tub stream’ controversy has divided the users of livestreaming platform Twitch all over the world.

The controversy broke out in America early this year, when female users started broadcasting content from swimming pools or inflatable tubs in the backyard, often in their bathing suits or bikinis.

This development, a section of users say, has turned Twitch into a ‘glorified softcore porn website’ from the platform it used to be for gamers, musicians, and sports fans to connect.

People on the other side of the debate say this hue and cry is misogynistic because Twitch hasn’t found these women guilty of posting sexually suggestive content, an action that would invite a ban. To put things in context, 65% of Twitch users are male, according to a 2019 report.

Metrolife asked Twitch users in Bengaluru for their take on the scandal and whether they are now wary of being seen on the platform by their peers and parents.

‘Content creators not at fault’

A Bengalurean, who goes by the name of HG on Twitch, said it’s not fair to “content shame” people. If anybody is at fault, then it’s the Twitch algorithm that allowed such content for viewing in the first place.

Moreover, if you find the content problematic, you can remove it from the viewing list, adds HG, commenting on the demand-supply dynamics.

Even 20-year-old Samyukta Iyer doesn’t see merit in the criticism. However, she says Twitch has a lot to fix in terms of how it curates and distributes content to its users, 41% of which are in the age group of 16 to 24 years.

She explains, “Dishing out content blindly to a massively young audience can cause harm. They are vulnerable. They can be manipulated to make donations to wrong causes or even share their credit card details. The aspect of child safety is important.”

Likewise, SR, a 20-year-old female Twitch user, felt the idea of censoring somebody for what they wear during a livestream unnecessary.

“If you are going to cancel these women, why don’t you cancel female characters from popular games that are portrayed in a hypersexualised way?” she asks.

Above all, they ask when a ban has ever worked. “These days, kids are more tech-savvy than we are. So banning or demonetising content isn’t going to stop them from putting out or discovering content. They will find a way around,” says Brian Joseph Paul, a 21-year-old male Twitch user.

Is India ready for it?

Can a controversial trend like the hot tub streaming take off in India, where women are still shamed for going out in jeans?

Danish Sinha, who runs a female-centric games startup called Gamestacy in Bengaluru, doesn’t shoot down the possibility.

“Given the diversity India has, hot tub streams are bound to fall in a circle that will support it and also in a circle that will be against it. Hot tub streams will be acceptable not just in India but anywhere
in the world, as long as the content is acceptable and moderated.”

Twitch user Samyukta is less hopeful. “Rather than being shamed for the content, Indian women would be shamed for their character and lack of cultural values,” she says. 

How did Twitch respond to the scandal?

Twitch now lets users choose and customise the kind of videos they would like to watch, at the time of signing up. Moreover, one can remove a type or genre of content from their feed any time. Post which, Twitch would stop recommending those videos.

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