How does an American media company that hosts millions of users’ live streams regulate what is and isn’t allowed? The simplest answer is to follow the law. But what happens when federal and state law is, well, diametrically opposed? How do you punish some users while letting others off the hook?
Those valuable questions, I believe, are how we reach Twitch users complaining about Snoop Dogg smoking blunts while playing video games.
To be clear, I don’t mean to trivialize the issue because it is an important discussion. Let’s back up. Snoop hosted a Twitch stream of him playing SOS, a promotional game currently in early access. His stream hit around 80,000 viewers and those tuned in saw Snoop spark a blunt mid-game. Administrators have blocked other Twitch users’ streams from such behavior, but Snoop’s was not.
It wasn’t because he happens to be Snoop Dogg, who you probably expect to engage in that exact behavior. Instead it’s because Snoop was in California, where cannabis usage and sales became recreationally legal as of Jan. 1. That means Twitch administrators have little reason to believe Snoop is breaking any law—he could’ve legally bought that weed he is smoking at a local dispensary, as is his right.
But this has been a confusing issue for Twitch users, as cannabis laws change around the country. Twitch community guidelines state users must “respect all applicable local, national, and international laws while using our services. Any content or activity featuring, encouraging, or soliciting illegal activity is prohibited.” In addition, any self-destructive “activity that may endanger your life or lead to your physical harm is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to: suicide threats, intentional physical trauma, use of illegal drugs, and drinking excessively.”
Related Story: Why Can Guns Travel Across States Lines, But Not Marijuana?
Marijuana usage remains highly debated, though. Last year one Reddit user reached out to Twitch for further clarification and received the following message:
We discourage broadcasters from the use of marijuana on our services. If doing so violates your local laws, causes you to inflict harm upon yourself, or is a focus of your broadcasts, this activity is entirely prohibited from broadcast.
If broadcasters do engage in this activity, the Mature Content warning must be enabled.
Please refer to our “Rules of Conduct(Twitch’s Rules of Conduct)” regarding breaking the law, self destructive behavior, and non-gaming content for more information.
To be clear, Twitch isn’t lackadaisical in its enforcement of these rules. Just this month actor Andy Dick was permanently banned from Twitch after he was snorting cocaine during a live stream. So no, celebrities are not given special treatment.
A Twitch representative did reach out to Polygon and stated that “because legality varies from Country to Country and State to State, we encourage people to follow their local laws.”
Of course, that’s exactly what Snoop Dogg was doing. As always be more like Snoop.