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US Army to reinstate its Twitch viewers banned for "harassing and degrading behavior"

Users were banned from the esports channel in droves last month for asking about the United States' history of war crimes

The US Army esports team is preparing to return to Twitch, and will be reinstating a number of accounts it has previously banned from its channel.

As reported by Motherboard Vice, accounts are being reinstated for viewers who were banned for asking about United States war crimes in chat -- a practice it received widespread criticism for, including from the ACLU.

It was also instructed by Twitch to cease offering certain giveaways in its viewer chat that, when clicked on, turned out to not be giveaways, but recruitment forms.

"The U.S. Army eSports Team is reinstating access for accounts previously banned for harassing and degrading behavior on its Twitch stream," the Army said in a statement to Vice.

"The team is reviewing and clarifying its policies and procedures for the stream and will provide all who have been banned the opportunity to participate in the space as long as they follow the team's guidelines."

So far, the Army has not yet resumed streaming, and it appears that at least some users are still banned -- including Jordan Uhl, who partnered with the Knight Institute to demand the US Army stop banning individuals who spoke up about US war crimes.

"The team will resume streaming on Twitch in the near future, but a specific date has not been set at this time," the Army's statement continued. "Personal attacks, crude language, pornographic material, harassment and bullying will not be tolerated on the stream, and action will be taken if individuals choose to engage in this behavior."

The Knight Institute has responded to the Army's decision favorably, but remains cautious about both its practices as well as those of the Navy esports channel:

"We're pleased that the Army intends to unban the users who were banned for engaging in core political speech, and we look forward to reviewing the Army's new moderation policies. We will closely monitor how those policies are applied in practice," said Meenakshi Krishnan, legal fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

"We're troubled that the Navy has not reconsidered its own policies and practices. As we explained in our letter, the Navy's esports Twitch channel is a public forum for First Amendment purposes and Navy recruiters act unconstitutionally when they ban speakers, or suppress speech, in that forum on the basis of viewpoint."

Meanwhile, earlier this week the US Congress blocked a bill that would have kept the military from using Pentagon funds to recruit on Twitch.

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Rebekah Valentine: Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.
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