Users of social media sites bulk-buying fake and bot followers to make themselves appear more popular is nothing new. The practice is a common one on the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and has long been a problem on Twitch.
But now the game streaming service is cracking down on the use of bots as a way of artificially inflating a stream's viewing figures and chat activity.
"We at Twitch are well aware that view-bots follow-bots and chat-impersonation bots are a persistent frustration," said Matthew DiPietro, Twitch's senior vice president of marketing, in a blog post. "Exploited by a small minority, these services have created a very real problem that has damaging effects across our entire community."
Twitch already has a number of technical solutions in place which, along with its mod and support teams, are used to detect and remove false viewers. Now, it's adding a "third layer" of protection: the company is bringing legal action against "seven of the most active sellers of viewbot services."
The company is suing the online shops that sell the bots for "trademark infringement, unfair competition, cybersquatting, fraud, breach of contract and tortious interference."
DiPietro said that as well as boosting viewer figures, the bots can be used in other nefarious ways, such as harassing broadcasters in order to deny them Twitch partnership, or as a way to get their channel suspended.
According to PC Gamer, Twitch is seeking injunctions against the bot-makers, transfer of possession of their domains, an order barring payment processors from providing them with service, and restitution, legal fees, and punitive damages.
Twitch will be hoping its actions convince other bot sellers that the activity really isn't worth the risk. "Ultimately, though, the best way to stop viewbot sellers from profiting off empty promises is to not buy their services," DiPietro said.