Twitch terminates all members of its Safety Advisory Council

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In this photo illustration, the Twitch logo is displayed on a smartphone screen. 
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Twitch on Friday will terminate all members of its Safety Advisory Council, according to sources familiar with the situation and documents viewed by CNBC.

The council is a resource of nine industry experts, streamers and moderators who consulted on trust and safety issues related to children on Twitch, nudity, banned users and more.

The Amazon-owned game-streaming company formed its Safety Advisory Council in May 2020 to “enhance Twitch’s approach to issues of trust and safety” on the platform and guide decisions, according to a company webpage. The council advised Twitch on “drafting new policies and policy updates,” “developing products and features to improve safety and moderation” and “protecting the interests of marginalized groups,” per the webpage.

For four years, the group advised the company on “hate raids” on marginalized groups and nudity policies, among other things.

But in the afternoon of May 6, council members were called into a meeting after receiving an email that all existing contracts would conclude on May 31, 2024, and that they would not receive payment for the second half of 2024.

The council was not made up of Twitch employees, but rather advisors, including Dr. Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center; Emma Llansó, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Free Expression Project; and Dr. T.L. Taylor, co-founder and director of AnyKey, which advocates for diversity and inclusion in gaming.

“Looking ahead, the Safety Advisory Council will primarily be made up of individuals who serve as Twitch Ambassadors,” the email, viewed by CNBC, stated.

In a formal notice in the same email, the company wrote, “Pursuant to section 5(a) of the SAC advisor Agreement, we are writing to provide you with notice of termination… This means that the second 2024 payment won’t be issued.”

Twitch Ambassadors are users of the streaming platform “chosen specifically because of the positive impact they’ve contributed to the Twitch community,” according to the company’s website.

Payment depended on the length of the contract, but council members were paid between $10,000 and $20,000 per 12-month period, according to a source familiar with the contracts.

Twitch’s decision to end the SAC’s contracts comes amid more than a year of belt-tightening and layoffs across the tech industry, especially on safety and ethics teams, which some companies view as cost centers. The cuts come at a time of increased cyberbullying, which has been linked to higher rates of adolescent self-harm, and as the spread of misinformation and violent content collides with the exploding use of AI.

A year ago, Twitch laid off about 50 employees responsible for monitoring abusive, illegal or harmful behavior, according to people familiar who spoke with CNBC at the time. The trust and safety team, or T&S as it’s known internally, lost about 15% of its staff just as content moderation was seemingly more important than ever.

In an emailed statement to CNBC, a Twitch spokesperson said the company has brought in “new council members to offer fresh, diverse perspectives.” The spokesperson also said the company has over 180 streamers in its ambassador program, and “with this new format, we’ll be able to pull in even more voices and perspectives.”

Twitch declined to comment on whether the ambassadors would be paid.

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