Following years of pressure from LGBTQ+ and other marginalised communities, streaming platform Twitch has announced an upcoming overhaul to its ‘tag’ system, which allows streamers to identify their channel’s material.
In a tweet over the weekend, Twitch said “We had planned to share this next week, but we’ve heard a lot of you talking and want to make sure the record is clear. Next week we’ll be adding 350+ new tags to celebrate yourself and your community.”
Twitch added that the new tags will be “related to gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, ability, mental health, and more.”
In a blog post, Twitch acknowledged that queer communities in particular helped prompt the upcoming change, and specifically thanked trans communities for their persistence, saying “We’d like to thank our trans community for originally requesting the ‘transgender’ tag, and for their passion and persistence in pursuit of that request. This has been one of the most popular requests we’ve heard, and the simple truth is that we should have done this sooner.”
It is also removing the controversial references to “ally” from the existing “LGBTQIA+” tag, as the ‘A’ rightly stands for Asexual. A standalone “ally” tag will be introduced instead, to allow straight streamers to better identify their channels as safe for queer viewers.
Twitch first launched tags in 2018, initially as a way for creators to better identify their content to audiences and to build a community around their work. However, almost since inception, there was a dichotomy between what Twitch intended the tags to be used for, and the way in which they were actually being used. In short, Twitch wanted tags to describe content, while streamers used them to announce identity or to indicate their streams were a safe space for marginalised groups. Twitch has now said “we were wrong” to force that distinction.
“It’s great to see Twitch finally making positive changes when it comes to discoverability for marginalised communities on their platform,” Miabyte says. “It’s something that took far too long and too much effort on the part of the transgender community. Although the idea that Twitch had originally planned to ‘score points’ by announcing these changes on the run up to Pride month leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
“The reality is that we finally have something back that was lost when Twitch’s ‘communities system’ was replaced back in 2018,” Miabyte adds. “It is my hope that this will finally allow Transgender streamers to find each other, forge new relationships and form communities that can support and uplift one another.”
Miabyte also called for Twitch to do more to actively protect its communities, especially as improved tags could draw in trolls. “There is of course still work to do when it comes to representation on the platform, the lack of diversity in highlighted streamers and of course harassment issues,” she says. “Things only change when we make our voices heard, and we should continue to be vocal about all of these issues.”
Twitch is planning a live introduction and discussion of the new tags on Wednesday 26 May, at 5:30pm BST. Look for more coverage on the changes then.