The U.S. Army’s Twitch channel has not streamed in almost a month. After finding itself in the crosshairs of Twitch users and Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for banning viewers who asked about war crimes and hosting sketchy giveaways, the channel went radio silent. Soon, however, it will return, and previously banned users will have their accounts reinstated, according to an Army spokesperson.
Last week, Ocasio-Cortez tried and ultimately failed to pass a measure that would have forbid the military from pouring funds into recruitment efforts on platforms like Twitch. The measure, according to The Nation, was expected to be grouped with other noncontroversial amendments and voted on as part of a package, but was instead singled out and shot down not just by 188 Republicans, but also by 103 Democrats, members of a party whose recent hits also include rubber-stamping a gargantuan Trump-backed military spending bill while in the process of impeaching Trump.
With that potential obstacle out of the way, the Army is now free to return to Twitch. In an email statement sent to Kotaku, an Army representative said that will happen “in the near future,” but did not provide a specific date. Where banned users are concerned, it plans to start with a clean slate.
“The U.S. Army Esports Team is reinstating access for accounts previously banned for harassing and degrading behavior on its Twitch stream,” reads the statement. “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.”
In at least some cases, the aforementioned “harassing and degrading behavior” was actually just viewers asking questions about war crimes—valid ones, given that the Army’s Twitch channel is first and foremost a recruitment tool, and potential recruits, as well as the general public, have every right to be concerned about the Army’s long history of war crimes, which continue to this day. In addition, legal organizations like the ACLU and the Knight First Amendment Institute have argued that such bans violate free speech laws, given that the Army is an extension of the government.
The Army’s statement does not directly engage with the looming question of questions about war crimes, instead saying that “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.”
These behaviors were also forbidden last time the Army streamed on Twitch, so it’s not yet clear how its latest targeted strike on gamers will be different from the previous one.
Late last week, the U.S. Navy’s Twitch channel returned from its own extended hiatus. Every stream since has been filled to the brim with viewers asking about war crimes, questioning the ethics of using a platform like Twitch to recruit young people, and observing that even temporary chat bans (aka timeouts)—which the Navy now seems to be employing semi-regularly—seemingly violate First Amendment laws.