The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University is demanding that the U.S. Army and Navy Recruiting Commands unban all viewers who asked about war crimes on their respective Twitch channels, according to today’s press release.
The Institute sent a letter to the two military branches, arguing that they violated First Amendment rights by banning viewers on government-run Twitch channels.
“Once the government opens up a space for expressive activity to the public at large, the First Amendment prohibits it from excluding speakers from that space on the basis of viewpoint,” senior staff attorney Katie Fallow said. “The Army and Navy can’t constitutionally delete comments or ban people from these Twitch channels simply for asking questions about issues they would rather not address.”
The letter also asks that the military branches “adopt and publish written policies” that will prevent this from happening in the future.
The issue began when Twitch user Jordan Uhl, who reported on the military “using online gaming to recruit teens” last week, was chat banned by the U.S. Army esports channel for asking “what’s your favorite u.s. w4r cr1me.” VICE then sought the opinion of civil rights lawyers who deemed it a violation of free speech. The U.S. Navy then followed suit, banning Uhl and other viewers for similar reasons, according to Kotaku.
The U.S. Army esports team has reportedly “paused social activity” and won’t be streaming on Twitch for now “due to recent media coverage of fake giveaways and potentially unconstitutional bans,” according to esports journalist Rod “Slasher” Breslau.
The Knight Institute successfully sued President Donald Trump in 2017 for blocking people on Twitter, citing similar First Amendment violations as the reason.