Update on Military Recruitment in Gaming
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Over the past month, U.S. military branches have faced widespread scrutiny for their recruiting tactics on the popular streaming site, twitch.tv, which is frequently visited by children and available to those as young as 13. A detailed report from 'The Nation' originally called the practices into question. The report reveals that the U.S. Army had set up false giveaways offering viewers a chance to win an 'Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller' only to be directed to a recruitment page "with no additional mention of a contest, odds, total number of winners, or when a drawing would occur." As users began to catch wind, many took to U.S Army's twitch channel to condemn the practices only to be met with censorship and removal from the channel by the Recruiters in charge.
News of this quickly spread across social media resulting in a backlash against the U.S. Army ultimately prompting Twitch to remove the giveaways, stating "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." While this action specifically addressed the giveaways, not all were comfortable with the military continuing to use the popular streaming site - largely used by children - as a recruitment tool. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) took to Congress to propose an amendment that would prevent the military from using funds to "maintain a presence on twitch.tv or any video game, esports, or live-streaming platform" From her comments, "Children should not be targeted in general for many marketing purposes in addition to military service... Right now, currently, children on platforms such as Twitch are bombarded with banner ads linked to recruitment signup forms that can be submitted by children as young as 12 years old... These are not educational outreach programs but recruitment forms for the military.”
While the amendment ultimately failed to pass (67 voting in favor, 158 against, with 206 abstaining), Osasio-Cortez cited her frustration notating Congress's lack of understanding as to what "Twitch" is and the growing need for tech literacy for elected officials. When asked for comment from the U.S Army, an official spokesperson informed GameSpot, "The [U.S. Army Esports] team has paused streaming to review internal policies and procedures, as well as all platform-specific policies, to ensure those participating in the space are clear before streaming resumes,” As of now, streaming to Twitch by the U.S. military continues for the Navy while the Army is expected to return to their streaming operations in the near future. Meanwhile, in the UK, the British Army awarded a contract to Ayozat to host four events to Twitch "involving army gamers" with plans to use "key influencers from the urban music scene" to promote "Army Confidence".
For parents, it's always a good reminder to check in with our children and discuss the content they view online and it's appropriateness for their age. For more information on Twitch, check out the Parents' Ultimate Guide to Twitch by Common Sense Media.