The US military has a long history of using unethical tactics to try and trick 13-18 year olds into being cannon-fodder for the wealthy. I mean, conscripts. The US Army (hereafter called “Smarmy”) released “America’s Army” in 2002 for free and continues to release updates. More recently it created “US Army Esports” involving other FPS games to predate on the young.
This past week, the official Smarmy account was thrown off the gaming service Twitch for unethical acts. It was falsely offering Xbox Elite Series 2 game controllers but in reality directing young people to a Smarmy recruitment page. There was no “prize”, and no cake either.
The U.S. Army has a Twitch channel that it uses to fish for potential recruits. Last week, it came under fire for issuing bans to viewers who asked about war crimes. This week, a report by The Nation dug deeper, pointing out, among other things, that the channel had a habit of running fake controller giveaways that redirected viewers to a recruitment page. Following widespread scrutiny, Twitch says it’s forced the Army to stop.
According to The Nation, the giveaways—which took place “repeatedly” in chat—offered viewers a chance to win an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. Clicking the associated link, however, would send viewers to a recruitment page “with no additional mention of a contest, odds, total number of winners, or when a drawing will occur.”
Upon learning of this yesterday, Twitch viewers and streamers reacted with disbelief.
“The silence from Twitch on the latest wave of criticism regarding the military using the site to scam kids into sharing personal info speaks volumes,” said streamer Jayson “ManVsGame” Love on Twitter. “Imagine any other channel doing that. Feel free to manipulate your viewers as much as you like, I guess?”
“Hey Twitch, is using your platform to run scams always against the [terms of service] or does the US Army get a special exception when they’re after kids’ blood instead of money?” game developer Bruno Dias said on Twitter.
Earlier, the Smarmy had attempted to obtain personal information of players for recruitment purposes. Instead, it was bombarded with intelligent repartee about the US military’s war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. What did the Smarmy do in response? It blocked and banned those who asked tough questions and linked to factual history.
Some folks have recently taken to trolling the U.S. Army’s official Twitch channel by asking in chat about the military’s well documented history of committing war crimes. The channel’s moderators have responded by banning them.
The U.S Army has a Twitch channel where the members of its esports team occasionally stream games, and earlier this week some newcomers used the chat to grill the Army about past abuses. “What’s your favorite u.s. w4r cr1me?” a Twitch user typed into the chat under the alias really_chill_guy, according to a video esports insider Rod “Slasher” Breslau shared online on July 8. Really_chill_guy then shared a link to the Wikipedia page listing U.S. war crimes. Moments after making the comment he was banned from the chat. “Nice, really chill guy, have a nice time getting banned my dude,” said the channel’s streamer at the time, Joshua “Strotnium” David, a Green Beret and 12-year veteran of the Army.
Vice reports that after Breslau’s video started making the rounds, others decided to hop into the chat as well. “Hello fellow kids,” wrote one person, according to a screencap shared by SB Nation producer Kofie Yeboah. “Oh so you like video games? Well you’re gonna LOVE dying in a foreign country to protect the interests of oligarchs back home.”
For all the farcical military talk about “none but the brave”, the US Army certainly engages in cowardly tactics.