Twitch is attempting to crack down on services that allow users to cheat their way to digital fame and fortune. The live streaming platform, best known as a hub for video game content, has filed a lawsuit against seven individuals who, taken together, run at least 12 sites where visitors can purchase automated followers known as “viewbots.”
The services owned by the defendants feature names like Twitch-Buddy.com, TwitchStarter.com, and Stream-Viewers.com. These website, and others like them, offer a compelling product: They sell artificial viewers that resemble humans followers, thus making buyers seem more popular than they actually are and allowing them to fetch more revenue from Twitch’s partnership program.
While many of the creators who employ these services are just getting their start, viewbotting controversies have hit some of Twitch’s most popular streamers, such as StarCraft gamer Evan “Winter” Ballnik and Hearthstone pro Harry “MaSsan” Cheong. With its lawsuit, Twitch hopes to mitigate the influence and spread of viewbots on its platform.
Here is the most salient part of Twitch’s legal complaint, which was posted in full by The Hollywood Reporter:
“Defendants design, sell, and deploy bot services — software that mimics the behavior of real users. These bot services capitalize on Twitch broadcasters’ desire to become popular on Twitch and to become Partners by promising shortcuts to both. Defendants offer bot services intended to deceive Twitch into believing that broadcasters are more popular than they really are. Defendants claim that their services will artificially inflate broadcasters’ viewership to make their channels appear higher in directories and trick Twitch into accepting broadcasters into the Partnership Program, with its promise of additional revenue.”
Twitch isn’t the only online video platform to fight back against viewbots. YouTube’s well-known policy of halting videos at 301 views served as an effort to make sure viral videos received all of their hits from legitimate accounts. A new, more streamlined process has since replaced that method.
Despite the efforts of these and other platforms, viewbotting remains a significant problem on the Internet. Perhaps Twitch’s suit will help crack down on creators who cheat their to fame and the services that allow such fraud to occur.