The US Army’s adventure on Twitch may have more trouble ahead, as Vice reports that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez intends to file an amendment to the newest House Appropriations bill that will prevent all branches of the military from using funds to “maintain a presence on Twitch.com or any videogame, esports, or livestreaming platform.”
The Army’s troubles began earlier this month when viewers on its esports team’s Twitch channel started asking streamers—all of them members of the Army—about war crimes. Shortly after that it came to light that a promotional giveaway on the Army’s channel, purportedly for a high-end wireless controller, actually led to a recruiting form. Then earlier this week, Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute said that the Army may have violated the US Constitution by deleting those awkward questions about war crimes and banning users who persisted in asking them, in contravention of the First Amendment.
Constitutional violations aside, the simple fact of recruiting through Twitch livestreams and esports events is pretty gross. But As the Vice report points out, there’s no guarantee that Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment will actually be adopted. The House Appropriations Committee on Rules first has to decide which amendments will go forward, a process that will take place next week, and then the whole thing has to make it through multiple committees before being voted on by the House, and then the Senate. The amendment could be scuppered at any point along the way.
Even if it is adopted, the military could presumably take steps to skirt it, possibly by separating itself from its esports team. It appeared to take a step in that direction following the accusation that its Twitch bans violated the First Amendment by changing a reference in its channel description from “the Army’s passion for gaming” to “our member’s passion for gaming.”
The amendment apparently takes aim at the US military as a whole, and for good reason. The Army has been in the spotlight over the past few weeks, but the US Navy and Air Force also run their own esports teams and Twitch channels, although their follower counts pale in comparison. Ironically, the gung-ho US Marine Corps does not: It rejected the idea earlier this year, “due in part to the belief that the brand and issues associated with combat are too serious to be ‘gamified’ in a responsible manner.”
The Army’s Twitch channel has been inactive for nearly two weeks now. An Army rep told the Washington Post that its esports team has stopped streaming while it reviews “internal policies and procedures, as well as all platform-specific policies.” Esports consultant Rod Breslau said on Twitter that the Army has actually paused all “social activity, streaming on Twitch, and official activations with Twitch including participating in upcoming Twitch Rivals events,” and that it may not resume until spring 2021. Kotaku verified the claim separately, reporting that it had seen the same email Breslau cited in his tweet.
I’ve reached out to Ocasio-Cortez for comment and will update if I receive a reply.