FOIA Request Uncovers Guidance on How Navy Twitch Streamers Should Respond to ‘War Crimes,’ Recruitment Questions

A Freedom of Information Act request has unearthed training materials that the United States Navy gives members of its streaming team as guidance on how to deal with controversial topics such as users asking about “war crimes” in chat or about its recruitment practices.

Training materials containing decision trees lays out how streamers should react to users, showing that the branch of the military has specific messaging that streamers are told to put disseminate to the general public.

The Navy implemented new policies following a series of controversial user bans on Twitch that caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), among others. Jordan Uhl, a self-described progressive activist, was one of the more high-profile bans that caught the attention of advocacy groups and politicians. During an Army stream, Uhl asked about “war crimes” and was immediately banned.

This led to AOC filing an amendment to House appropriations bill H.R. 7617 on July 22  that would have prohibited the military from streaming on platforms like Twitch. That amendment was ultimately defeated.

The training material was uncovered through an FOIA request to the Navy by Micah Loewinger, a reporter and producer for the show, On The Media. The slides were released on Twitter.

A slide showing a decision tree gives appropriate responses to the question, “What’s your favorite U.S. war crime?” The responses include the following:

  • “I’m here to play games. I have no interest in personal attacks.”
  • “I understand that some people here oppose the military and have no interest in a Navy Career. But for those who are curious about what it’s like to serve, let’s talk.”
  • “I am here to hang out with people like me who love gaming. If you want to more about my life in the Navy I am happy to discuss. But I will not speak on behalf of others.”
  • “If you have any concerns about Navy policy or actions, I suggest you contact the Federal Elected Officials from your state.”

A “response decision tree” concerning when it is appropriate to engage in discussions on various topics is probably the most controversial, as it contains information on how to respond to questions about recruitment because the minimum age to use Twitch is 14-years-old. The tree directs streamers to answer questions not directly related to recruitment or general questions about it. In another section of the tree, streamers are told that direct questions about recruitment should be responded to in the following manner: “Respond and let the user know how to reach a recruiter in their area by searching on or completing the RFI form.”

One slide discusses what tone streamers should use on Twitch while streaming, or “tone, voice, and use of emotes.” Under stuff to do, sharing personal stories about being in the Navy, highlighting that streamers say they are speaking from their “own experience” and not “for the Navy as a whole,” and to “utilize appropriate emotes where and when it makes sense.” Streamers are told not to use emotes that represent any other brands or artists, user emotes that are “altered or misrepresented,” and to avoid engaging in “telling others’ stories.”

Finally, a slide lists what the ideal games are to play on Twitch, though there doesn’t appear to be any restriction in that regard, with the slide noting that streamers should play “current trending games, recent releases, as well as indie or lesser-known titles.” 

U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard) have a presence in esports through sponsorships and partnerships,  and some through esports teams composed of active-duty personnel. The U.S. Marines Corp. and the Coast Guard are the exceptions to the rule: In May representatives for the Marines told that it had no interest in “gamifying” its approach to recruitment.

The Esports Observer has reached out to the Navy for comment and will update this story should it respond.

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