The U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment submitted by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) yesterday that would have blocked funding for military recruitment on livestreaming platforms like Twitch. The amendment failed in a vote of 126 to 292, with 103 Democrats joining 188 Republicans to reject the motion.
Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) submitted the amendment to the 2021 appropriations bill, which would prevent the military from using any funds for “[maintaining] a presence on Twitch.com or any video game, e-sports, or live-streaming platform.”
“I would like to open with the stance of the U.S. Marine core, which is that war is not a game,” AOC explained in a speech on the House floor. “Quoting the Marine service, brand and issues associated with combat are too serious to be gamified in a responsible manner. This amendment is specifically to block funding for recruitment practices on platforms like Twitch. These platforms are populated with children well under the age of recruitment rules. Children as young as 12 are targeted with recruitment forms that can be filmed online.”
AOC went on to explain that her stance is in line with the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which was designed to protect children from manipulative marketing tactics online.
Yesterday’s amendment was introduced after Jordan Uhl exposed a number of shady recruitment practices that were being used by military recruitment channels on Twitch earlier this month in a report for The Nation.
Uhl revealed that the U.S. Army and Navy were blocking discussion of war crimes and were banning any users who said negative things about the military in their chat. The military’s liberal use of the ban hammer was met with backlash from civil rights organizations like the ACLU, who argued the government doesn’t have the right to censor speech, even on a private platform like Twitch.
There were also troubling allegations that the U.S. Army was running fake giveaways of an Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller, which costs around $200. Prompts to enter the sweepstakes directed users to recruitment forms, where gamers as young as 12 years old could sign up to be recruited by the U.S. military. Twitch required the U.S. Army to remove those fake promotions, arguing the Army’s fraudulent giveaways violated the U.S. law regarding sweepstakes and thus were also in violation of the Twitch terms of service.
Although yesterday’s amendment failed, it’s likely that AOC and her allies will introduce independent legislation in the near future addressing the Army and Navy recruitment practices on Twitch and other livestream platforms.