For over a year now, both the United States Navy and The United States Army has been on Twitch in an effort to recruit gamers into their ranks. To this you might already be thinking, "Hold up, the military wants to recruit gamers? Did they find a way to weaponize Mountain Dew farts?" They probably have, but also, according to U.S. Naval research, gamers would actually make great soldiers since they tend to have "10 [percent] to 20 percent higher, in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability, than normal people that are non-game players."
It's why the Army and Navy have been creating eSports teams and streaming on Twitch in an effort to get gamers interested. It's a good plan on paper, except there's one thing they didn't account for: If the U.S. military thought they knew hostile territory, then they didn't know Twitch chat.
Twitch chat is notoriously ruthless, even in the best of circumstances. There's no way that the literal embodiment of authority is going to step in and suddenly be given a pass.
Viewers bombarded chat by asking questions about war crimes committed by the U.S. Armed Forces. It's a great troll, but also, a serious inquiry because, holy shit, this Eddie Gallagher guy randomly shot civilians while serving in Iraq, including a young girl. The moderators responded by removing comments and then banning commenters. But there's a big problem with this. The Army and Navy aren't a private business. They're the government, and to ban users for asking questions and deleting their comments is, in essence, a violation of the First Amendment. (Also, there was a litany of other shady practices being conducted by the military on Twitch.)
"The Navy, similar to the Army, are either playing dumb or actually have no idea how the law works. They aren't regular Twitch users. They're bound to standard First Amendment restrictions on speech and especially political speech. If the military can't withstand people pointing out all the war crimes it has committed, they shouldn't have committed war crimes. Twitch users shouldn't be banned for speaking out."
A Navy representative responded in an email to Kotaku by saying:
"We moderate our channel in accordance with our posted channel rules, which are available to everyone who chooses to participate in the chat. We strive to allow for maximum freedom of discussion in our chat and seek to only ban those who break the posted rules or engage in personal attacks against our streamers or their families."
It's a weak defense, and the military probably knows it. Which we guess is why the army announced yesterday morning that they will be pausing streaming indefinitely. The Navy is most likely to follow suit, especially now that their actions have led U.S. Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to introduce a measure that will ban the military from using eSports as a recruitment tool.
Damn, we thought Vietnam was tough. Who knew Twitch users would whoop the U.S. military even worse?
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Top Image: Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare/ YouTube