US Army backs away from Twitch as recruitment tactics backfire

So far, the American military has certainly made some questionable decisions – this time not so much about their behaviour in military conflicts, but more about the way they choose to advertise. Naturally, the army as well as other branches of the military are actively recruiting new members. The recruitment tactics vary and evolve over the years.

Recently the US army tried to use Twitch for their soft recruitment efforts. Its likely part of the new US Navy’s advertising budget focused on online advertising including esports. More specifically, they tried to promote US Army esports by showing veterans and military personnel playing Call of Duty as well as some competitive esports. Additionally, US Army esports tournaments are a thing for awhile now.

US Army backs away from Twitch as recruitment tactics backfire

© US Army Esports

Chat crimes

While some people were offended just by the recruitment content in general, the army took it even further. Viewers found themselves banned from the chat when they brought up the number of different war crimes the American military has been accused of. Naturally, people weren’t happy with the censorship. Moderation settings outright blocked the words “war crimes”, but even spelling it as ‘w4r cr1mes’, some users banned by the moderators.

There were also some sarcastic comments from the streamers themselves. Joshua ‘Strotnium’ David, the streamer in question referred to the users that mentioned the atrocities the American military has previously committed as ‘internet keyboard monsters’ and finished it off by pointing out that ‘I’m bigger than you.’ Needless to say, nobody was very pleased by the 12-year veteran’s behavior – though admittedly it wasn’t as bad as some of the other behavior Twitch streamers have shown.

Now the army is under fire in a more unusual way – complaints about censorship and violations of the US first amendment have summoned lawyers on the plan, who see serious issues here.

Throwing in the hat

In reaction, the army stopped their streaming and took themselves off the Twitch esports directory, and subsequently announced that they were reviewing internal policies and procedures. The Knight First Amendment Institute (a group that defends free speech) sent a letter demanding that the military restore the comments that were deleted over the last few weeks.

A total of 300 or so accounts found themselves penalised for, what the army called ‘harassment’. Kelli Bland, an army spokeswoman said that the users were banned because their harassing comments violated the ToS of Twitch.

“The eSports Team blocked the term ‘war crimes’ in its Twitch channel after discovering the trend was meant to troll and harass the team. […] Following the guidelines and policies set by Twitch, the U.S. Army eSports Team banned a user from its account due to concern over posted content and website links that were considered harassing and degrading in nature.”

Contrary to this statement, courts have previously decided that social media accounts of the government are not allowed to block or exclude people based on their comments or views – not even on Twitch.

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Trolling the rules

Whether or not the army was violating free speech with their generous bans, a number of watchers certainly had their fun with the whole thing – by trying to get banned as quickly as possible, regardless of the moral and legal implications of the ban-hammering.

It’s not the first time either – when the army’s official Twitter account used ‘UwU’ in a tweet, it brought on a lot of mockery – and once again, people trying to see how fast they could get banned from the official army Discord server.

It is interesting however, that toxic behavior, trolling and being mean are frowned upon on most platforms. Yet when a veteran or US Army streamer plays video games and people ask about “war crimes”, and go on to abuse the streamer, that’s all A OK and fair game. US Army personnel just like any category of streamers should not be abused and mobbed just because their opinions or goals differs from yours.

Read next: The never-ending fight in tackling players’ toxic behavior