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Army esports team announces Friday return to streaming

After pausing for an internal policy review and surviving a congressional move to cut its funding, the Army’s esports team will resume Twitch streaming on Friday.

The team temporarily stopped streaming in July after being accused of offering fake giveaways and violating the First Amendment by banning commenters who spammed streams.

Streaming will begin again Friday at 3:00 p.m., and access has already been reinstated to the nearly 300 banned accounts, officials said in a press conference Thursday.

“We are very, very excited to return to streaming on Twitch and get back out there doing digital outreach on our other social media platforms,” said Lt. Col. Kirk Duncan, mission support battalion commander.

Officials said accounts were not banned for their opinions but rather the way they expressed them.

“Regardless of platform, we welcome everyone’s viewpoint,” said Duncan. “But we can’t allow personal attacks on our soldiers, crude and inappropriate language, pornographic material, harassment, bullying of any kind.”

The new standard operating procedures produced by the team’s internal review seek to empower the non-commissioned officers who moderate streams by providing clear guidelines for how and when commenters should be warned or banned, Duncan said.

The lieutenant colonel said the team intends to use Twitch’s “time-out” function to warn users before banning them. Users violating the channel’s terms of use can be temporarily blocked for between one and 96 hours, allowing leadership to review comments and decide whether or not a permanent ban is appropriate.

For instance, if a commenter repeats the same message more than three times, they may receive a time-out and review for spamming.

“The core of our moderation policies really didn’t change. What it was more about for us was, ‘Are we effectively leveraging all the tools that each platform offers?’” said Duncan.

If users want to contest a permanent ban, the team has also developed a procedure for users to appeal, and all new policies and guidelines will be posted on the team’s Twitch channel, a spokesperson said.

Team members also plan to address the changes openly.

“Absolutely they are open to answering questions about what they’ve gone through the past couple weeks, and they actually intend to, when they come back online tomorrow, to give a brief rundown,” Col. Megan Stallings, commander of the Army’s marketing and engagement brigade, told reporters.

During the team’s pause for review, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) proposed an amendment to the House budget plan that would prohibit government to “maintain a presence on Twitch.com or any video game, e-sports, or live-streaming platform.”

Ocasio-Cortez told VICE that she did so because it’s “incredibly irresponsible for the Army and the Navy to be recruiting impressionable young people and children via live streaming platforms.”

The amendment ultimately failed but served to represent concerns some have that military esports teams gamify war or present a false portrayal of military life.

“When the bill was proposed, we did look and say, ‘Hey if this were to pass, what would be our key points to talk about in terms of how it would affect us?’” Stallings said. But ultimately, Stallings told reporters, she believes the Army is better off having personnel in esports.

The Army views members of its esports team not as recruiters but as an outreach team, officials said. The team works to share soldiers’ individual experiences in the military and inform young people who know little about the Army of the opportunities available to them.

“I don’t know if we have a choice not to be in esports. And what I mean by that, you know, is the facts that we have tell us 80 percent of 17-24-year-olds either watch video games, play video games, or both. Essentially, it’s how that age demographic spends their time,” said Duncan.

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