The United States Army Esports channel has returned to twitch, after several weeks of controversial dealings and a failed Amendment to curb recruitment efforts on the platform.
The U.S Army has been operating an Esports channel for some time now, but it was often mired in some controversy leading up to leaving the platform several weeks ago. Most notably was a contest by the U.S Army, that instead of providing prizes to participants, mislead them by sending winners to an Army Recruitment page.
The U.S Navy channel would also see controversy after numerous users accused the channel from stifling free speech. Specifically, critics of the U.S Military asking about war crimes and former personnel such as Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was accused of stabbing a 17-year-old prisoner to death then posing with the corpse.
All the individuals streaming on the U.S Army channel are current active members of the U.S military.
In response to their actions, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attempted to pass an amendment to halt President Donald Trumps spending budget, which would include live recruiting of individuals on livestreams.
"It's incredibly irresponsible for the Army and Navy to be recruiting impressionable young people and children via live streaming platforms." Stated Congresswoman Cortez. "War is not a game, and the Marine Corps' decision not to engage in this recruiting tool should be a clear signal to the other branches of the military to cease this practice entirely."
The amendment failed to pass in the House of Representatives, which has led to the US Army Esports planning to resume streaming. The US Navy channel appears to have not stopped, and avoided the amount of attention the US Army Esports channel got, due in part to the the US Army Esports twitter posting memes like UwU
The new guidelines for the Twitch Stream, posted today, include standard rules of conduct you would expect for a Twitch channel, with one major outlier that reads as the following:
Messages that are not constructive, topics outside the scope of USAE, and pushing personal agendas will be reviewed if they are deemed as harassment and moderated.
This change, regarding the vagueness of the language, gives the USAE and the individuals on stream personal power to deem multiple forms of speech to be considered harassment. The claim of personal agendas is also contradictory; the Army was caught using the platform for further recruitment efforts, which falls into the personal agenda claim and a violation of their own channel rules.
The rule, however, also offers clarification by the U.S Military on their part, notably after organizations such as a ACLU and First Knight Foundation have claimed the Military was violating First Amendment rights. The Army has also plans to unban all accounts. According to The Verge, "reinstating access for accounts previously banned for harassing and degrading behavior." This, however, may not be fully confirmed, as activist Jordan Uhl - one of the first to bring up the issue of war crimes on the Navy Stream - claims to still be banned, speaking with Gizmodo.
"The Department of Defense reserves the right, but undertakes no duty, to review, move or delete any material submitted as a comment to the information provided for display or placed on the social media and streaming sites in its sole discretion, without notice." stated the new user agreement. "Comments submitted to these sites will be reviewed and a representative sample may be posted on the site or inappropriate comments may be deleted at the sole discretion of the Department of Defense."
The U.S Military has been using video games as recruiting tools since the 2000s, with the release of the Army-developed America's Army in 2002. The franchise, designed to be part educational tool, part recruitment tool, has been criticized over the years for its blend of accessible propaganda, as well as using America's Army with a Non-Profit Organization to tour High Schools in 2013.
Regardless of the situation, the past few weeks have kept the U.S Army mired in controversy over their livestream efforts. It is unlikely that this controversy will disappear any time soon.