Richard Lewis: Twitch is failing its users with scam streams - Dexerto
Opinion

Richard Lewis: Twitch is failing its users with scam streams

Published: 15/Feb/2020 18:00 Updated: 8/Sep/2020 15:22

by Richard Lewis

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There they are. You’ve heard of this streamer before but never actually watched them before. Their game really isn’t your thing but you’re bored, there’s nothing else going on and they’re on the front page so it’s as good a way as any to fill the time. One click. 


The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by Dexerto.

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You miss the fact that there’s not a verified tick next to their name. Not every big name on the platform has one anyway. They’re barely interacting with chat, ignoring the flurry of sub animations that are popping up on screen. They have to, there’s so many it wouldn’t be practical otherwise. Chat scrolls, full of nonsense and languages you don’t recognise. You ignore it. 

What you are watching is actually pretty entertaining. There’s a giveaway on screen. People in the chat are saying they won. Probably unlikely a first-time viewer would get anything but since you’re here, why not? It’s obviously legit. There’s no way someone of this size would be lying. Just got to type in your details and see what happens…

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Now for most of us, this is a scenario so far fetched that you’re probably laughing at how ridiculous it is as you read it. There’s a mistake made by the fictitious viewer in almost every other sentence. Us hardened cynics could never be fooled. Yet every day on Twitch there’s real potential that these ‘first-time viewers’ are being burned by fake broadcasts of popular streamers. 

Lately, the business has kicked into high gear. Hell, it’s become such a glaring problem that even the mainstream game press have taken time out from their busy schedule of harvesting hate clicks through burning popular figures for years-old tweets to write about it.

The scam works like this. They choose a popular streamer, one that would attract a sizeable audience and have sponsors capable of providing giveaways. Then they register a Twitch account with a name that is as close to theirs as you can possibly claim. Next, they copy their avatar, details from their profile page, and then download footage of one of their streams using a program like Twitch Leecher. They then create an overlay that says you can get free prizes, typically skins, as part of one of their sponsors’ giveaways and that you just follow the link to an external site. 

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Twitch
A fake shroud stream, which attracted upwards of 8000 “viewers”. Fake chatters boast about getting a prize to trick real viewers.

The site is typically a phishing site that will ask for login information or worse. This is placed over the old footage from a previous broadcast that is played in its entirety to give the illusion of it being live. To further add to the deception they often use viewbots to boost the numbers enough to push it to the top of the section or even Twitch’s front page.

People seem to be under the impression that this is something new. In reality, this type of con has been going on for years. What has changed is the scale and the efficiency with which these scams work now. Before they were impersonating smaller streamers, ones that might only rope in one or two unsuspecting rubes. These days they are impersonating the biggest names in streaming and have a system in place that means they are back within an hour or so of being shut down. All of this suggests that they are making money and Twitch isn’t reacting fast enough to stop that being a reality.

Now, if you’re interacting with a corporate suck-up they will probably say something along the lines of “what can Twitch realistically do to stop these streams?” They will pontificate on how helpless the Amazon-owned company is to protect its users despite them having a moral and arguably legal obligation to do. The company that swoops within minutes to ban a woman showing the wrong kind of skin or someone saying something that sounds like a bad word absolutely cannot stop these streams from being broadcast for hours at a time. They just don’t have the means.

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If they’re not arguing that then it’s Reddit edgelords adopting the “If someone is fooled by these streams they deserve to get scammed” position, forgetting that Twitch also has children and naive newcomers in their vast audience. 

If the scams didn’t work then people wouldn’t do them. Email scams still rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from the vulnerable and the desperate. The difference between this and an email from a Nigerian prince is that in replying to ‘his royal highness’ you still have to get worked via a confidence trickster. The malware you’re exposed to through these fake Twitch streams is a lot more invasive. Not to mention the reality is that your email provider has done a lot more to keep you from ever seeing those kinds of emails than Twitch seem to be doing to stop these streams from making their way to the front page on a daily basis.

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Twitch
CS:GO streams are popular targets, claiming to give away ‘free skins’.

Sure, the first lesson you need to learn on the internet is that it’s all bullshit and you should probably trust nothing. You haven’t won an iPhone. You don’t need that anti-virus software. You aren’t eligible for a lottery dividend. That attractive woman you’re messaging isn’t real. Etc etc. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t laughed at the misfortune of others, but before you think it’s only confused ‘boomers’ that get rolled like this, consider that a report by the FTC found that millennials are particularly more vulnerable to online scams than seniors with “40 percent of adults age 20-29 who have reported fraud” having lost money in a fraud case.

It’s my view that big companies revel in the doubt that such discussion creates. It gives them just enough of an excuse to continually fail you. They can say, ‘hey, we’re banning them as fast as we can’, a statement that ultimately means nothing. They can say ‘we’re making our viewers aware of these streams in a bid to protect them’, which is a nice way of saying “it’s your fault if you get fucked over by one of these streams even though we are enabling them.” Yet anecdotally we know that things like adult entertainment are taken down within such short timespans people barely have time to get to the vinegar strokes.

Let me tell you how I know Twitch could be doing a lot more to stop this. You may recall when Valve’s doomed card game Artifact sank to the point where you could fit all of its active players in a phone booth. At that time, the corresponding section of Twitch became a goldmine of weirdness. Then, because the internet was a mistake, it went from being a place you could find shiny nuggets of bizarre content to a sewer filled with steaming chunks of the worst the online world has to offer.

Twitch
Twitch
Twitch’s Artifact section seen at the peak of its descent into chaos.

Sure, I can laugh off a picture of Mario doing the Goatse pose, but looped footage of the Christchurch shooting is impossible to stomach. Needless to say it was at this point the games press latched on to what was happening and it was widely reported that the Artifact section had descended into anarchy.

As the media machine did its thing, Twitch tweeted a statement that said they were taking drastic measures to resolve the issue. It read:

“Over the weekend we became aware of a number of accounts targeting the “Artifact” game directory to share content that grossly violates our terms of service. Our investigations uncovered that the majority of accounts that shared and viewed the content were automated. We are working with urgency to remove the offending content and suspend all accounts engaged in this behavior. In addition, we have temporarily suspended the ability for new creators to stream.”

Huh. That’s strange. If I was cynical I’d probably assume it was because the negative press, highlighting the racism and the white nationalist terrorism, didn’t play out well with advertisers. They didn’t just stop there though. They actively sought out who was responsible and started pursuing legal action against them. With the information they had they requested a court order to find the “John or Jane Doe(s)” responsible and seemingly have settled the matter, most likely after the main perpetrators shat themselves at the prospect of the full force of an Amazon-owned entity taking them to court and their identity being revealed in publicly available documents.

This was an (admittedly deserving) aggressive response to a problem that while emotionally upsetting and damaging to the company’s image didn’t put any users at risk of having money hoovered out of their accounts or having sensitive data leaked. Why then are we not seeing similar action in the works against these scammers? And if that is underway why have you not put out a statement about it?

Honestly, who can say? You’ve got more chance of consistency from NFL pass interference calls than this company and their priorities are impossible to figure out. It is a platform that seems to have become defined by its complacency, safe in the knowledge that as long as people believe it is where the party is they will never go anywhere else, no matter the bullshit and no matter the risks. It’s a platform where you can come, roll a few rubes and disappear without reprisals because it appears that they are funneling their seemingly shrinking resources into their flesh patrol and bad-word detection squadrons. That’s fine though. While you’re bleeding kids, we’re bleeding purple.

CS:GO

missharvey column: Valve, here’s what CSGO needs to be great (Part 2)

Published: 8/Oct/2020 13:42 Updated: 8/Oct/2020 17:12

by missharvey

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After a storied career in Counter-Strike as a player, Stephanie ‘missharvey’ Harvey is issuing a call to arms for the CS:GO developers to act and help the game. After exploring the issues in Part 1, here’s what Valve needs to do before it’s too late.

In my last piece, I outlined a plethora of issues which I believe are the root of CS:GO’s drastic loss of momentum. While there’s no doubt that the statistics paint a positive picture for Counter-Strike, the grass is greener where you water it. Valve has neglected their community to the point where many are considering whether Valorant — a tactical shooter still very much in its infancy — will be the killer of CS:GO.

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Viper in Valorant
Riot Games
Riot has built their tactical shooter with competitive integrity at the forefront of their priorities, but community feedback has been essential.

Let’s get CS:GO’s community back on board

As you may have noticed, the Counter-Strike community has a fond place in my heart. That’s no secret.— the CS:GO community is like no other, they’re loyal, extremely passionate about their game, and dedicated to making it an awesome experience for pros and beginners alike. And this is where Valve needs to start: everything needs to revolve around the community. 

So what can the devs do? Well, for starters, there needs to be a better global link between the player logging into Steam to play CS:GO and what the developers have in the pipeline. Easiest way to achieve this? Roadmaps. Planning the route ahead and sharing their goals with the players could be done on a bi-monthly basis, or from Operation to Operation. Either way, it would provide a level or transparency that Valve is yet to show. That way, if a player wants to know when to expect the next rotation of maps or hotfixes, they can do so by just consulting a roadmap that is frequently updated by the devs in-game. 

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From a content standpoint, Operations are a gimmick. There is no season-based Battlepass system (which seems to be the modern way) and it feels like Valve are being left behind in an era where content can make or break player drop off rates. Other than love for the game, I feel like Valve are giving players no reason to continue their grind. Compare this with the likes of Valorant and Call of Duty, where players have always got a reason to grind — be it Riot’s Act-based Battlepass, or Activision’s Season-based system.

Warzone Battle pass
Infinity Ward
Incentivizing the grind beyond gameplay is key to player retention in the long-run, and can even help build character lore in the game!

And there’s so much more that can be done. A large majority of the community aspire to play like professional players. Instead of relying on third-party websites, why not embed features like player configs directly into CS:GO? This could be as simple as linking it to a verified Steam profile associated with a pro. You could even take this a step further than just downloading the whole config — why not show the user what’s being changed and give them the option to swap specific elements out? So, in practice, a player could take NiKo’s crosshair, juliano’s sensitivity and kennyS’ viewmodel. Again, food for thought, but this is just scratching the surface. Steam already has a profile system in place, and it’s begging to be more relevant than just a vanity item.

Valve: Are you in or out?

I think it’s fair to say, we need more of a ‘buy-in’ from Valve — and by that, I don’t mean a measly half-buy… I mean an all-out M249 full-buy with a Zeus sprinkled on top. Using content to drive interest in a game is just the tip of the iceberg. There are fundamental issues that need resolving. Aside from being on the ball with things like bug fixes and more frequent patches, why not make the playing experience even smoother and make 64-tick servers a thing of the past?

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For those who haven’t dabbled with 128-tick servers, let me give you an example of how it feels. Imagine taking a shot at an enemy who is jiggle-peeking around a wall and connecting the bullets you fire. As opposed to seemingly getting killed from behind said wall… Honestly, the difference is night and day. The best part – there are community-run servers that offer a 128-tick rate as standard. 

In this one example, we have a problem and tons and tons of possible solutions. Let’s assume Valve doesn’t want to overhaul their server structure (which they should do), what else could they do? Reach out to third parties and embed their structure into your game? Give players the choice to play on 128-tick for a small monthly fee (while possibly reducing the amount of cheaters in that matchmaking category)? Slowly implement 128-tick to higher ranks and prime players and test out the outcome? As you read this, I am sure you are coming up with other ideas, and in my opinion, this is one of the things Valve should have been working on for years now. But even if they had been, the community is none the wiser!

64 tick servers in CSGO
Valve
If an enemy came around the corner here on 64-tick, they would have ‘peeker’s advantage’ and would stand a better chance of killing you.

Esports is thriving, now is the time to act!

The interest in CS:GO from an esport perspective has never been greater. More hours are being streamed on Twitch than ever before, and as a result, viewership metrics are higher from month-to-month. With so many tournament organizers wanting their slice of the CS:GO pie — despite being riddled with the logistical nightmare that is presented with online play — it’s obvious that Valve could be capitalizing on a huge demographic here.

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Imagine a pro player’s Steam profile was their hub. Links to all their social profiles with the ability to subscribe to them. An entry level of subscription might issue fans with access to their demos, configs and notifications when they’re online and scrimming. An additional level might include access to exclusive content and the ability to exclusively watch your favorite pro’s point-of-view during a Major, with access to their comms during select portions of the match. Imagine Patreon, but for Counter-Strike.

Steam profile
Valve
There is so much that can be done to bridge the gap between Steam profiles and CS:GO.

By no means am I saying that all of the above will fix everything — there’s so much more that can be done. There’s a gold mine of content with custom servers that could so easily be embedded into the game. Again, look at Valorant’s Spike Rush. The community asked for a faster-paced game mode, and Riot answered. We have FFA Deathmatch modes, retake simulators, warmup arenas, movement (surfing) servers… The list goes on. Valve could easily take the community’s input here and really push CS:GO forward in a positive direction. So what’s the takeaway message?

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Community first. As you can probably tell if you’ve got this far, I’m a firm believer in Counter-Strike’s loyal fanbase. The fact of the matter is, that everyone below tier-one pros are starving, and as it stands, there is no ecosystem to support these players — be it tier-two pros, aspiring pros or the casual gamer. So c’mon, Valve, the ball is in your court.