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Things Aren't Looking Good For The Army's Twitch Return

The U.S. Army has had a bit of a checkered history when it comes to streaming on Twitch. After leaving the streaming platform last month following serious backlash from viewers, the Army attempted to make a return to streaming. However, things did not appear to go according to plan.

According to a report from Kotaku's Nathan Grayson, the stream was led by U.S. Army Esports Team member Chris "Goryn" Jones. Despite a speech at the top of the stream about the importance of the U.S. Army Esports Team, viewers were less than enthusiastic about how things played out from there. 

Jones spent roughly an hour and a half mostly staring at the chat, only occasionally engaging in answering questions and criticisms from viewers. The questions that were answered were those that seemed the most innocuous. Meanwhile, Jones seemed to ignore or downplay numerous questions concerning war crimes and politics, as well as accusations that the U.S. Army was using Twitch as a way of recruiting young people.

Most people simply asked over and over again why Jones wouldn't just start playing video games, which was ostensibly the purpose of the channel in the first place. Jones did answer a few questions regarding Army recruitment and responded to a few jokes about his haircut, but things mostly remained quite awkwardly silent from his end. Finally, Jones booted up World of Warcraft and more or less stopped engaging the chat in conversation.

Twitch users who tuned in for the Army's first broadcast back have shared screenshots of the kinds of messages that were in the chat. The questions ranged from matters of politics to touchy subjects like civilian casualties. At one point, someone simply spammed the chat with the phrase "WAR CRIMES" over and over again while Jones attempted to play World of Warcraft like normal. And again, many of these questions and comments were left unacknowledged by Jones.

In other words, it was an uncomfortable first stream back for the Army. It's no surprise that the return of the Army's Twitch channel would drum up some controversy. In fact, the channel has more or less remained a polarizing presence since it was first launched. And considering the kinds of dramatic bans that have occurred on Twitch this year, that's saying something.

According to report from The Nation, Twitch channels operated by various branches of the U.S. military have been using deceptive practices to get younger viewers to volunteer their personal information. This included links that advertised vague giveaways and automated chat prompts that promised a chance to win Xbox Elite Series 2 controllers — all of which redirected curious viewers to military recruitment forms containing no further mention of those giveaways.

This was cause for concern from several notable streamers, including Hasan Piker, who told The Nation, "Twitch is unlike anything I've ever experienced in my career, and it's because you're live for hours on end, talking to these people in the chat. You develop a community and know your individual chatters ... Recruiting in this predatory way is a violation of [the users'] safety."

Kotaku reached out to Twitch regarding the fraudulent giveaways, which Twitch confirmed had been halted. A Twitch spokesperson told Kotaku, "Per our Terms of Service, promotions on Twitch must comply with all applicable laws. This promotion did not comply with our Terms, and we have required them to remove it." Despite this violation, the Army's Twitch channel remained up and running. It's also worth noting that the U.S. Army is still a sponsor of Twitch's esports brand, Twitch Rivals.

The Army's Twitch channel also received quite a bit of backlash for its habit of banning anyone who brought up war crimes and other apparent infractions on the part of the United States military. This led to accusations that the Army was violating the First Amendment. After months of negative attention, it was reported that the Army would be stepping away from Twitch for an unknown length of time. Gaming journalist Rod "Slasher" Breslau referred to this hiatus as "a temporary pause," but thought that the the Army would refrain from any official activity on Twitch until Spring 2021.

However, the Army is already making some kind of effort to return to Twitch. In fact, many users who were previously banned from the Army's Twitch channel have found themselves unbanned. If this first stream back is any indication, then it seems the U.S. Army may have more of a lax response to difficult questions going forward. However, some people may take issue with the fact that the Army is apparently just ignoring certain chatters instead of banning them. It remains to be seen how chill the chat will be going forward, but it clearly made for some uncomfortable viewing for the people who tuned in.