The US Army has come under a lot of fire, no pun intended, in regards to their esports teams and initiatives. From accusations of predatory recruitment strategies to silencing users in their Twitch streams who criticize them or bring up controversial topics. After a hiatus, the US Army is returning to Twitch with what appears to be a change of heart. They originally paused streaming to review their live chat conduct policies following complaints of first amendment violations from banned users. These users have now been unbanned and are able to rejoin The US Army’s Twitch streams when they do return at an undecided date.
In a statement sent to The Verge, a spokesperson for The Army commented saying “The team is reviewing and clarifying its policies and procedures for the stream and will provide all who have been banned the opportunity to participate in the space as long as they follow the team’s guidelines” There was no comment on other points on interest, like misleading giveaway messages that appeared in their live chats and sent those who clicked to a recruitment page. Those who questioned these motives or mentioned US war crimes were all subject to bans that have now been lifted. Knight First Amendment Institute got involved last month, penning a letter to the Army and Navy’s sports teams imploring them to urban users and establish clear policies for live chat conduct. This is the same institute that won their case against President Donald Trump, forcing him to unban Twitter critics.
Whether this had any influence on The Army’s decision is up for debate, but their spokesperson did outline the team’s live chat guidelines, saying “Personal attacks, crude language, pornographic material, harassment, and bullying will not be tolerated on the stream, and action will be taken if individuals choose to engage in this behavior.” From the looks of this, it wouldn’t seem like criticism of the military’s sports initiatives would fall below these standards, though of course, it is circumstantial. Whether certain war crime comments would be acceptable also remains to be seen.