U.S. Army Esports Returns to Twitch Following Controversies on User Bans, Recruiting Practices

U.S. Army Esports Returns to Twitch Following Controversies on User Bans, Recruiting Practices

U.S. Army Esports will resume live streaming on Twitch Friday, after taking a hiatus from the platform in July following criticism from U.S. lawmakers and rights groups over banning users who spoke out about “war crimes” and using the platform as a recruitment tool. 

The controversy began when users in chat asked questions about “war crimes” and shared other negative sentiments against the army and were subsequently banned. This caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups, who publicly highlighted the incidents as possible First Amendment infringements because the esports team is federally funded. 

In addition to drawing the attention of these and other groups, the news caught the attention of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who also zeroed in on the esports team using questionable giveaway links as a means of recruiting young people on Twitch. The minimum age to own a Twitch account is 13-years-old.

As the controversy surrounding these issues grew, the Army Esports team announced that it would pause for an “internal policy review.”

On July 22 Ocasio-Cortez put forth an amendment to military appropriations bill H.R. 7617 that would have forbid U.S. Armed Forces from spending appropriated federal funds to recruit young people for military service through live-streaming platforms such as Twitch or other esports activities. The amendment was ultimately defeated in a July 31 House floor vote 292-126 against. 

According to the Army Times, streaming will start at 3 p.m. EST on Friday and access has already been reinstated to the nearly 300 accounts that had been banned, officials said. They also said the accounts were not banned for their opinions but for the way they were expressed. Lt. Col. Kirk Duncan, mission support battalion commander, said, “Regardless of platform, we welcome everyone’s viewpoint. But we can’t allow personal attacks on our soldiers, crude and inappropriate language, pornographic material, harassment, or bullying of any kind.”

The new standard operating procedures that resulted from the internal review empowers non-commissioned officers who moderate streams by providing clear guidelines for how and when commenters should be warned or banned, Duncan said. He said the team will use Twitch’s “time-out” function to warn users before banning them. Users violating the channel’s terms can be temporarily blocked for between one and 96 hours, allowing leadership to review comments and decide whether or not a permanent ban is appropriate.

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