We learned last week that the US Army’s Twitch stream was being trolled by viewers who, instead of focusing on the games or players—the Army has its own esports team—insisted on asking about war crimes. The pointed questions put a spotlight on the dubious (some would say extraordinarily unethical) practice of seeking out recruits from among an audience that contains many young, impressionable gamers, and on top of the “UwU”ing being generally objectionable to many, it turns out the Army may have been outright decietful in its efforts.
According to a report by The Nation, Army Esports streams on Twitch regularly featured an automated chat prompt with a link that promised a chance to win an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. But Twitch viewers who clicked the link were taken to an Army recruiting form, with no mention of the controller or the drawing.
There was some backlash against Twitch for allowing the ads on its platform, but it apparently wasn’t aware of what was happening, and has put a stop to the “promotion.”
“Per our Terms of Service, promotions on Twitch must comply with all applicable laws,” a Twitch rep said in a statement. “This promotion did not comply with our Terms, and we have required them to remove it.”
Twitch allows streamers to run promotions on their channels as long as they comply with the following regulations:
- (1) You may carry out Promotions to the extent permitted by applicable law and you are solely responsible for ensuring that any Promotions comply with any and all applicable laws, obligations, and restrictions
- (2) You will be classified as the promoter of your Promotion in the applicable jurisdiction(s) and you will be solely responsible for all aspects of and expenses related to your Promotion, including without limitation the execution, administration, and operation of the Promotion; drafting and posting any official rules; selecting winners; issuing prizes; and obtaining all necessary third-party permissions and approvals, including without limitation filing any and all necessary registrations and bonds. Twitch has the right to remove your Promotion from the Twitch Services if Twitch reasonably believes that your Promotion does not comply with the Terms of Service or applicable law
- (3) Twitch is not responsible for and does not endorse or support any such Promotions. You may not indicate that Twitch is a sponsor or co-sponsor of the Promotion
- (4) You will display or read out the following disclaimer when promoting, administering, or conducting a Promotion: “This is a promotion by [Your Name]. Twitch does not sponsor or endorse this promotion and is not responsible for it.”
The US military has a long tradition of promoting itself to the the public through sports. As we noted when the Navy and Air Force announced sponsorship deals with ESL and Dreamhack, formation flyovers and servicemembers holding the US flag while the anthem is sung are common parts of US sporting events.
Twitch streams are perhaps a more personal affair: They’re not one-on-one but they can feel like it, especially when the inherent message is that soldiers are regular people who love videogames and say “UwU.” Twitch also gives viewers the opportunity to talk back, which regular sporting events don’t.
I’ve contacted the Army for more information, and will update if I receive a reply.