In a line that only further proves the cyberpunk dystopia is real, the US Army have been reprimanded by Twitch for running phoney giveaways on their streaming channel. Following criticism for banning viewers who raise the service's history of war crimes, Twitch have now forced the US Army's Esports Team (a thing that sure does exist) to stop a thinly-veiled recruitment trick disguised as a free controller giveaway.
Let's be frank - the US Army's presence on Twitch is a recruitment ploy in and of itself. Chummy military folks hop into a game like Call Of Duty: Warzone, hang out with chat, maybe let slip a few words on just how great the Army has been to them. It's a new ground for the service to get in contact with impressionable young'uns - one that leverages parasocial relationships between viewer and streamer as a way to sell military service.
This week, The Nation reported on an aspect of their recruitment drive that was a little less, well, subtle. Reportedly, the Army was running giveaways in their chat channel, offering viewers the chance to snag an Xbox Elite Series 2 gamepad. When hopeful viewers clicked the link, however, they were instead greeted by a "sparsely populated" page that made little-to-no mention of any such prize. Instead, they were asked to "Register to win" with a form that, according to the small-print, allowed an Army recruiter to get in touch with them at a later date.
Speaking to Kotaku, a Twitch spokesperson said that the Army has been told to stop this practice immediately. "Per our Terms of Service, promotions on Twitch must comply with all applicable laws," the spokesperson told Kotaku, via email. "This promotion did not comply with our Terms, and we have required them to remove it."
This isn't the first time the US Army's streaming practices have come under fire, mind. Soon after launching the channel, they were found to be aggressively banning viewers who raised the US military's history of war crimes - an act that ACLU lawyers later told Vice may violate their first amendment rights.
"Calling out the government’s war crimes isn’t harassment, it’s speaking truth to power," the ACLU noted on Twitter. "Banning users who ask important questions isn’t ‘flexing,’ it’s unconstitutional."
At a stretch, Twitch's actions could also be read as "speaking truth to power" - particularly in the wake of their suspension of Donald Trump's channel for hateful conduct. But it's worth noting that the military has a tight relationship with the platform. Kotaku goes on to explain that America’s armed forces are official sponsors of the Twitch Rivals esports brand, with commentators that will "periodically shout out" the Army on-stream.
Twitch might not mind the Army using their platform as a recruitment base. They'll just ask that they be a bit less crass about the whole thing.