The United States Army has now paused streaming on its Twitch channel following criticism from the public and First Amendment rights campaigners after it banned a number of users who were posing questions related to war crimes allegedly committed by the American military, the New York Times reported.
The news was first revealed by esports analyst Rod Breslau and has been confirmed by a US Army spokesperson, who said that the move was caused by the need 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”.
The US Army esports team, which has been taking part in online battles in Call of Duty, League of Legends, Counterstrike and other legendary games, will now reportedly abstain from participating in upcoming Twitch Rivals events.
The development follows the public scrutiny the Army has been facing in recent weeks, after its Twitch channel's moderators barred a number of social users from the streaming chat. On 8 July, a person named Jordan Uhl asked in a streaming chat “what’s your favorite u.s. w4r cr1me?”. He was soon banned by the channel following this modified question, with a video of the incident going viral and causing a public outcry.
But many Twitch users then followed his lead, flooding the US Army channel’s chat in the upcoming weeks with comments about a massacre in a Vietnamese village, an airstrike on an Afghan hospital and other questions related to the military’s “war crimes” in the past. Some of them were also eventually banned from leaving new messages on the channel.
The moderators of the US Army’s Twitch initially defended a banning of all “war crimes” questioners as anti-harassment policies. However, activists from the Knight First Amendment Institute insisted that these actions by the military were a violation of freedom of speech and thus unconstitutional.
“When the government intentionally opens a space to the public at large for expressive activity, it has created a ‘public forum’ under the First Amendment, and it cannot constitutionally bar speakers from that forum based on viewpoint”, the group wrote in a public letter, on behalf of Jordan Uhl, published on Wednesday. The campaigners demanded the channel to alter its moderation settings and restore access of all the 300 banned users.
The social activity of the US Army’s channel on Twitch has now been halted.