Over the past couple of weeks, a topic that stirred up discussions among streamers is the new Twitch Brand Safety Score. This article will discuss what it is and the implications for streamers that come with this decision.
Remember that Nosedive episode from Black Mirror where everyone constantly rates others on a scale of one to five stars and cumulatively affects their socioeconomic status?
This scary “social credit score” is becoming a reality, folks! Recently, leaked information has revealed that Twitch plans to launch a similar system called Brand Safety Score. The system will possibly rate all streamers for their content and community, affecting content creators’ monetization possibilities and ad revenues.
What exactly is Brand Safety Score on Twitch?
According to the evidence in Twitch’s internal API found by cybersecurity researcher Daylam Tayari, the “brand safety score” would rate how brand-friendly a streamer is depending on a variety of criteria:
- The streamer’s age (whether they’re 18 or older, or 21 or older)
- Their ban history
- The relationship the streamer has with Twitch
- Their automod settings
- Their partnership status
- The ESRB rating of the game being played
- Whether the stream is set to mature
- A manual rating and keywords for the channel set by a Twitch-affiliated reviewer (hmmm, really?)
Note: ESRP stands for Entertainment Software Rating Board, a rating system that helps parents and others choose games that are most appropriate for their children.
Is the Brand Safety Score in place?
Not yet. In responding to public concern regarding the API change, a Twitch spokesperson made a brief statement, emphasizing that such scoring system has not yet been implemented:
“We are exploring ways to improve the experience on Twitch for viewers and creators, including efforts to better match the appropriate ads to the right communities. User privacy is critical on Twitch, and, as we refine this process, we will not pursue plans that compromise that priority. Nothing has launched yet, no personal information was shared, and we will keep our community informed of any updates along the way.”
It’s clear that for now, the API change is only experimental internally. Streamers’ information isn’t being released to advertisers. This post will keep you updated when Twitch announces the Brand Safety Score comes into effect.
What are the implications for streamers?
Understanding the metrics Twitch is tracking can be beneficial in theory. However, streamers think it could be worrisome in some aspects.
In the API code, the Brand Safety Score is referenced to ads: “Grabs the Brand Safety Score of a channel as well as relevant data used to calculate it. Also returns custom parameters about this channel to forward to VAES for ad targeting purposes.”
There’s a high probability that this score could be used to decide what ads and how many ads will be shown on a channel. It may also affect the Twitch bounty system (Twitch Bounty Board is a way for creators to browse and accept paid sponsorship opportunities directly from their Twitch dashboard).
In theory, the Brand Safety Score will allow advertisers to compare streamers on a specific axis, select them more effectively, and make sure ads will be shown to the right audience. For example, alcohol brands can sort out streamers above the drinking age to promote their product.
While this metric may or may not be visible to streamers, it’s scary to think of it as Uber ratings: if your rating gets screwed up for whatever reason, you cannot drive or make money anymore.
In past practice, this “filter” has limited the income potential of Youtubers who produce content for mature audiences or who discuss controversial topics. The giant has also been accused of treating creators unfairly when punishing some new creators while ignoring inappropriate content from influential Youtubers.
With the Brand Safety Score system coming into play, we have reasons to believe that the more outspoken a streamer is about political and social issues, the more likely that channel will be marked with a low score and appear as undesirable for brands.
This reminds us of an incident when Youtube introduced a similar regulation, and flagged all LGBT+ videos on the website as “not family-friendly”. LGBT+ streamers would probably have a hard time, “because apparently, LGBT+ is still advertiser unfriendly according to these brands”, a critic wrote on Twitter.
Like Youtube, Twitch has also been accused of playing favorites with how they hand out bans. When telling a streamer why he/she is banned, Twitch usually only cites the top-level guideline that was violated (e.g. hateful conduct). For example, Dr Disrespect claimed that he was given no reason at all for his account suspension in Jan 2021.
The new Brand Safety Score aggregates users’ distrust in Twitch’s inconsistent moderation, bringing into question whether it would increase the level of power abuse and preferential treatment as Twitch staff now can manually adjust streamers’ ratings.
However, on a more optimistic note, the Brand Safety Score’s introduction could also bring about more transparency over why a streamer is banned. Since the system will store information regarding an account’s suspension, streamers could request a more detailed explanation. Streamers would even have legal rights to request this information, based on the GDPR and CCPA data protection laws.
Twitch, just like Youtube, has probably had a scoring system like this for as long as there have been ads. But making the metrics public now could mean they want streamers to be more mindful about their actions on the platform. So if you play some mature games, discuss political topics, or if your chat is known to be a bit chaotic, maybe it’s time to tone down a little bit. A good Brand Safety Score could give you a higher CPM or better monetization options. We’ll keep you updated as soon as Twitch announces their enforcement. Until then, stay safe, and have fun with your audience! Try Gimbl Challenges if you dare to 😉