Twitch ditches Safety Advisory Council, relaunches with vetted 'ambassadors'

Who needs experts when you have an army of hand-picked super users telling you what you want to hear?

Twitch has reportedly dismantled its Safety Advisory Council, and apparently plans to replace the panel with chosen "ambassadors."

That council, formed in 2020 "to enhance Twitch's approach to issues of trust and safety," was made up of nine individuals: Four industry experts, and five Twitch partners and moderators. 

But according to CNBC, Twitch's next move involves terminating safety council member contracts for the second half of 2024 and replacing them with so-called Twitch ambassadors.

Twitch says it's visited by roughly 35 million people a day, with more than 2.5 million watching its users' video streams at any one time.

As the site and its app are used by a lot of teens who are into computer games and the like, the biz's safety council was set up to provide feedback to Twitch on policies and protocols to safeguard those kids and other netizens from things like online abuse, internet addiction, inappropriate content and messages, and other health and safety concerns. SAC members include Free Expression Project director Emma Llansó, Cyber Bullying Research Center co-director Sameer Hinduja, and AnyKey co-founder/director T.L. Taylor.

"The council was formed with the belief that bringing diverse viewpoints into the conversation will make the council's role and recommendations stronger, and ultimately better for our community," Twitch said. When approached by The Register, the vid-streaming biz would not say for sure that the council had been disbanded.

However, a source familiar with the matter who spoke with The Reg on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the advisory council had been shuttered in favor of an ambassador-led program. Presumably, or one can hope, those ambassadors will at least take over the role of feeding some advice and ideas on internet safety to Twitch.

"There's no question that the council has been invaluable, and we remain fully committed to these partnerships," a Twitch spokesperson told The Register. "After working with many of the same core members for several years, our global Twitch ambassadors are joining in to share their perspectives."

The spokesperson did describe the inclusion of Twitch ambassadors as a "refresh," though could not confirm or deny the council's members were having their contracts cut.

Twitch ambassadors are a group of select users who "positively contribute to the Twitch community - from being role models for their community, to establishing new content genres, to having inspirational stories that empower those around them," the company said. 

Whether any of today's 174 Twitch ambassadors are also experts in online safety policy is unknown. 

"We're excited to work with our ambassadors, all of whom are active on Twitch, know our safety work first hand, and have a range of experiences to pull from," the Twitch spokesperson told us. "More than 170 streamers are part of our dedicated Ambassador program, and with this new format, we'll be able to pull in even more voices."

It's not clear if the entirety of the ambassador base will be consulted for safety-related issues or whether a small group will be selected, if appointment to the "refreshed" safety council is permanent, or if it's a paid role since current members are reportedly paid up to $20,000 a year. We asked, and Twitch didn't answer those questions either. 

Just another cut back?

Twitch, which has been an Amazon subsidiary since 2014, has gone through multiple waves of layoffs since last year. It was one of the groups caught in a massive Amazon layoff in early 2023 that eliminated 9,000 jobs across the organization, and another 500 folks were sent packing from Twitch in early 2024.

The streaming platform has also been forced to abandon its South Korean operations, citing excessive network access costs in the country, and this year CEO Dan Clancy admitted Twitch had been losing money and was being kept afloat by its parent. 

In other words, Twitch is regularly looking to trim costs, and those safety council members might be an easy cut to make.

There is at least some indication that the decision to ax a formal trust and safety committee could end up biting Twitch in its ass. Twitch's safety panel is similar to Twitter's now-former Trust and Safety Council, which owner Elon Musk dismantled not long after taking over the bird-themed site in 2022.

Twitter also destroyed its own internal trust and safety teams, cutting a third of T&S staff and losing multiple heads of trust and safety in short order. Who is doing the bulk of moderation on Twitter/X now? Volunteers, and they can't do anything but flag content as incorrect or offensive. 

What has been the result of that trust and safety free-for-all at X? Chaos that has required the hiring of 100 full-time content moderators. 

We'll just have to wait and see whether Twitch's future plays out the same way. ®

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