Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Dear Twitch,

During my relatively short time period within your community, negative criticism on your ability to handle situations professionally has not been in short supply. Today is no different, as my twitter feed is filled with complaints of an unjust closure of a relatively popular channel and the logical fallacies in your admins' decision-making have been swiftly presented. With this issue coming to light, I feel as if there are a few unaddressed issues that deserve a turn in the spotlight as well.

The issue in particular I would like to address is your blatant disregard for human life. Your website has given me an opportunity to become a member of a community filled with wonderful people whom I've had a chance to interact with and befriend. For that I thank you. However, my praise ends there. Without getting into needless detail--the details of the situation are ultimately irrelevant--a few months ago, a respected member of your community and dear friend of mine was dealing with some personal issues and decided that suicide was their only option. Due to the nature of our friendship, what little personal information I had wasn't enough to save their life, and the 911 responded I was working with required an IP address. Desperate, I reached out to the support email and whatever staff members I could locate. My question was simple and read:

"I am wondering what your policy is on releasing a streamer's IP to the authorities if there are serious risks of suicide. These risks were not advertised on stream but they are real and planned. I am hoping that you will respond quickly."

The task of posing an urgent question alone required a ridiculous amount of effort. The support email form is not easily accessible, nor is any sort of emergency moderation. I figured my question was reasonable enough that if someone didn't have the answer, it could at least be easily redirected elsewhere.

A response was even more elusive than the support email form or access to available staff. I only received one reply from the three staff members I messaged directly, and the support email never responded to or acknowledged my request. The one reply I did receive redirected me to the Twitter support account seven days later, a no doubt appropriate means of communication given the nature of the situation. What good is identifying a staff member with a badge if he/she isn't available for user support?

This isn't the only time that the behaviour of staff and volunteers has been disrespectful, but this particular instance was truly a life or death situation. Even if no preventative action could have been taken (despite your Privacy Policy stating that you reserve the right to disclose user information under the reasonable belief that their safety is in danger), a response of any sort would have been appreciated, even if just to acknowledge that the safety of your users is, in fact, a relevant concern.

Twitch provides a service to the public. It would only make sense that your staff be educated on your website's Privacy Policy, and that questions your users may have can be answered and in a reasonable time frame so that, in the event of an emergency, proper measures can be taken to serve the needs of the same people who are responsible for your success.

Doubtful of your ability to address community concerns, I write you this open letter in hopes to: a) bring awareness to this issue, b) encourage a response, and c) discourage the reoccurrence of a similar situation.

Today, my friend is alive and recovering, but it is no thanks to you. Twitch as a company is in a position to do incredible things, don't fuck it up with something as corrigible as poor communication and inappropriate staff behaviour.


     Ashley Baker / SuperSmashley