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U.S. Army Esports Team May Have Violated the First Amendment During Twitch Stream

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The US Army Esports team recently dealt with some issues with one of their live Twitch streams where chatters asked about war crimes, and have been banning users who bring up the topic, however they may find themselves in more trouble for taking that route.

According to Vice, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that’s a violation of the first amendment’s free speech protections.

The Army’s foray into the world of esports teams was intended to help recruit, but it seems that it has, and is continuing to go, horribly wrong and Army content creators behind the channel’s efforts are receiving backlash as a result.

“It looks like what happened was a violation of the First Amendment,” Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project said, per the report.

According to Vice, the ACLU isn’t the only brand that is taking issue with the US Army’s actions, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

As a reminder, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University is the law firm that successfully sued Donald Trump when he blocked people on his Twitter account (see here).

“As a general rule, as established in our case against Trump, if a government agency or branch of the military operates a social media platform or a website, and they allow people generally to post comments then typically that would be considered a public forum,” Katie Fallow, a Senior Staff Attorney with Knight, told VICE over the phone. “If the Army run Twitch channel is a public forum, then deleting comments or blocking people from commenting based on their viewpoints, such as asking about military crimes, would violate the first amendment.”

“You’re not looking at what Twitch’s functionalities are because the real concern here is that the government, by banning these comments, was censoring speech based on viewpoint,” Fallow said. Fallow also pointed out that the U.S. Army’s own stated rules for the chat room didn’t prohibit asking questions about war crimes.

“You have to apply your own rules uniformly and without viewpoint” she said. “None of these rules cover what those comments were.”

“The U.S. Army eSports Team follows the guidelines and policies set by Twitch,” a representative of the U.S. Army esports team and military streamers said in an official statement. “The team viewed the user’s question as a violation of Twitch’s harassment policy and banned the user. We fully support users’ rights to express themselves, but we will not support harassment of our Soldiers on our forums.”

Twitch has declined to comment on Vice’s story, and even referred Vice to it’s FAQs on bans and suspensions.

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