The US Army’s Twitch channel has been banning people that ask them about US war crimes in the comments of their streams. This all came to a head this last Wednesday when the channel started banning users at a fever pitch, going so far as to shift their settings for who could comment on their streams.
The US Armed Forces have been breaking into the esports scene for the last couple months with Twitch streams of active duty soldiers playing Call of Duty: Warzone and other titles. Each branch (with the Marines as an exception) runs their Twitch and Twitter pages similarly to other esports organizations. Back on June 30, US Army Esports tweeted at Discord about getting a giant plushie of Wumpus, the platform’s mascot, ending the conversation with a cutesy “UwU” and heart emoji. That tweet, along with their general use of overly cute nomenclature, has gained them them negative attention among people who don’t appreciate the most heavily armed military force on Earth masquerading as a kawaii teenager. This has led to Twitch users trying to see how fast they can get banned from the censor-prone Army’s channel.
Vice reported on Thursday about a mass banning by the US Army Esports, aimed at commenters who asked about or mentioned US war crimes calling it harassment. Green Beret Joshua “Strotnium” David was playing Call of Duty: Warzone and talking to chat as all the war crimes questions started coming in. People were asking about the My Lai Massacre and the Kunduz hospital airstrike, as well as asking more purposefully poking questions like “What’s your favorite war crime?” David responded to this by calling the users “little internet keyboard monsters” and that he wouldn’t stand for them talking to the Esports team this way and that he was bigger than the commenters, all while chat was being filled with blocked user messages.
The US Army (notorious for its censorship) has extra chat rules that go beyond Twitch’s, but there is no such policy that disallows mentioning of war crimes. A team official offered a statement claiming that the questions were “harassment” according to Twitch’s guidelines, and that was not how they wanted their page to represent the armed forces. They did not address the questions based on real-life war crimes committed by the United States. The ACLU joined in on Twitter on Thursday, saying, “Calling out the government’s war crimes isn’t harassment, it’s speaking truth to power. And banning users who ask important questions isn’t ‘flexing,’ it’s unconstitutional.”
It is an odd sight to see the US Army behave contrary to its famous “Army Strong” slogan. Their esports Twitch page has always been propaganda and a recruitment tool and will always be that, but it becomes dangerous propaganda when it tries to erase all the negative moments from the its history and image. This could have been a great opportunity for the Army to engage with the people they’re trying to recruit in a more public forum about the realities of the, but instead they just censored dissenters and complained about how mean the internet is.