As you probably know, news broke yesterday that Amazon acquired the gaming-focused social network Twitch for nearly a billion dollars. Normally this story wouldn’t come up on a blog focused on digital reading, but I have been reading some of the commentary on the acquisition and I wanted to have a say.
Earlier today I read a post on ReadWrite which asked whether Twitch would end up being a failure like Goodreads:
Which raises an interesting question. Just what does Amazon know about managing a social-network community, anyway? The Seattle merchant isn’t merely a novice when it comes to the social space; it’s a novice whose preliminary forays in this area have received mixed reviews at best.
Remember GoodReads? The social reading website, with an emphasis on books, catalogues, and reviews, startup up in 2006 as a site for members to discuss the books that they loved. Amazon purchased GoodReads in March 2013; not long afterward, it was enmeshed in accusations of censorship and stifling creativity after it reportedly deleted hundreds of user reviews and ratings without warning, sparking a backlash by a small but active group of members.
ReadWrite is referring to a policy change which was made last year. Goodreads decided to ban a certain type of book review, namely ones which focused on an author’s behavior. Goodreads then, without warning or notice, went through existing reviews and deleted any reviews which violated the policy.
I disagreed with both the policy and its execution, but Goodreads’s subsequent growth has shown that it was not necessarily the wrong decision. To call the social network a failure based on that one event is simply ridiculous.
In all honesty, if Twitch “failed” as thoroughly as Goodreads then it will become a great online community that everyone in gaming will benefit from.
I’m being ironic, but for the moment let’s consider what would happen if Amazon enacted a policy change on Twitch similar to the one that occurred on Goodreads last year.
That policy was defended by some as a way of protecting authors from trollish Goodreads users. If Twitch made a similar “mistake” they would be enacting an active policy against sexual harassment and misogyny.
As the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian have made abundantly clear, gaming has a problem with sexual harassment. This is even a problem on twitch, apparently. This problem might be confined to a handful of malicious trolls, but they’re ruining it for the rest of us.
To be fair, Twitch already has a harassment policy and doesn’t appear to have a serious issue with misogyny (or so Google suggests), but as an outsider I do not know if that is a sign that there is no problem or if it indicates that female gamers are avoiding the community or hiding their gender.
If Amazon forced Twitch to adopt a policy of “censoring” trolls, I really do not see how that would be bad.
Given that, I do not see how that new policy would doom Twitch. I think a messy public policy change which made Twitch friendlier to female gamers would likely make the community more appealing, not less. I might not be the subject of the abuse but even I don’t like being around that type of person.
I, for one, would love to see Twitch “fail” as completely as Goodreads. That would be awesome.
Who’s with me?