Twitch labelled 'predator paradise' for lack of guard rails for kids


Teenagers using Twitch are at risk of falling victim to predators, according to researchers pointing to the risks of younger people being able to receive money from strangers on the live-streaming platform. — Photo: Silas Stein/dpa

WASHINGTON: The live-streaming platform Twitch is endangering children by allowing them to "interact with adult strangers and donate money" without parental consent or supervision, according to researchers at the annual American Academy of Pediatrics conference.

A "significant proportion" of teenage users on Twitch are "willing to reveal personal information despite having no knowledge of who might be listening," the researchers found.

This makes the Amazon-owned platform, popular among gamers, a "predator paradise," the authors told the conference ahead of publishing research involving 100 apparent minors streaming on Twitch.

Researchers found that the 100 Twitch streamers with 1.7 million total followers provided their names 47% of the time and shared their location 50% of the time. Viewers were able to donate money to 37% of streamers, the researchers found.

"Discussions contained personal details 11% of the time, notably including streamers trying on outfits for viewers and discussing identifiable locations they frequent," the authors say, noting that it took between 12 seconds and just under 5 minutes to find minors in each game category.

Lead researcher Doctor Ruth Milanaik said parents "need to supervise all interactions on this platform to best protect their child."

Fiona Dubrosa, visiting scholar at Cohen's Children Medical Center, questioned the format of kids being able to receive donations on the platform, which has around 35 million daily users and 7 million live-streamers a month.

"The idea that anyone can donate money to streamers of any age seems very manipulative," she said, pointing to "disturbing ways this could be utilised."

Twitch declined to comment to dpa on the research.

The platform previously added parental controls that allow a parent to make protected changes to the privacy features of an account, as well as automated features designed to identify predatory behaviour.

By default, accounts can't accept direct messages ("whispers") from strangers, Twitch says. Parents can also contact Twitch directly at privacy@twitch.tv to have their child's account closed and personal data deleted, Twitch says.

In 2022, Twitch announced a crackdown on accounts belonging to users under the minimum age of 13 after Bloomberg reported that some 270,000 minors were potentially being targeted by alleged predators.

Earlier in October Twitch announced a feature to make sure blocking stops a user from viewing any stream by a user who banned them. – dpa

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