AOC Amendment on Twitch Armed Forces Recruitment Fails in the House
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC, NY-D representative in the House, brought her amendment proposing the banning of the US Army from using their marketing budget to drive recruitment through Twitch today. It failed in the House after significant bipartisan opposition, despite fairly large support shown online and on Twitter for the motion.
What Was AOC’s Argument to the House of Representatives?
AOC’s main argument to the House focused on the average age of Twitch users, and whether or not the military should be targeting people that young with recruitment exercises.
“This amendment is specifically to block recruitment practices and funding for recruitment practices on platforms like Twitch.tv,” AOC said in the 2021 US House hearing on Federal Spending. “Live streaming platforms that are largely populated by children well under the age of military recruitment rules. Children as young as 13 and oftentimes as young as 12 are targeted for recruitment forms that can be filled online.”
AOC also took umbrage with the focus of the army livestreams on Twitch, which were said to be educational in nature, but contained many links to recruitment forms that could be filled out by folks that are far too young.
“This amendment is in direct alignment with both those values, but also the values that children should not be targeted in general for many marketing purposes in addition to military service. Right now, children on platforms such as Twitch are bombarded with banner ads that link to recruitment signup forms that can be submitted by children as young as 12 years old. These are not educational outreach programs, but recruitment forms for the military. A twitter account for the US Army esports team linked to a page with “Register to Win” at the top, no details on what one could win, and a signup form that according to a tiny disclosure at the bottom of the page, consents to contact by an Army recruiter. Again, allowing people as young as 12 years old to submit this form. Viewers in the army’s channel are repeatedly presented with an automated form, saying they could win an Xbox Elite series 2 controller that costs upwards of $200 and a link where they can enter the “giveaway.” It too links them to a recruitment form with no additional mention of a contest, odds, total number of winners, or when a drawing would occur.”
AOC’s argument was eloquently stated, and her closing argument focused on the fact that Congress and the US government should fully understand the technologies they are employing before funding them. As she put it, the military had jumped into Twitch with both feet without a full understanding of the things there were doing.
“Again, it’s extraordinarily important that we approach and study emerging technologies, including live-streaming which is a platform that is exploding in youth, particularly among young people. When it comes to issues of technology we should act with reservation and caution first, rather than entering with both feet in and trying to undo damage that could potentially be done.”
Why Did the Amendment Fail?
The amendment failed by a significant margin, despite the house being controlled by the Democrats, as many voted against it along with the Republicans in the House. AOC seems to think it was an issue of ignorance on the part of many of the representatives in the House, as they barely had an inkling of what livestreaming or Twitch was, and seemed to think that any cuts to Army recruitment were a bad thing.
“Imagine trying to explain to your colleagues who are members of Congress what Twitch is,” she complained on Twitter. “It’s totally fine if you don’t know what Twitch is. But tech literacy is becoming an growing need in Congress so we can legislate to protect people’s privacy. When our legislative bodies aren’t sufficiently responsive to tech, then that means we don’t have the tools required to protect people. This is partially why companies know way more about you than you may even be aware of – because it’s legal, and Congress is struggling to keep up. The good news: a majority of the Dem party supported this amendment. That’s a really solid start for this being the first time this issue has been brought before Congress.”
It’s possible that AOC tries to raise this issue again in the future, but for now, it seems that the Armed Forces will be permitted to continue their activities on Twitch. They could, however, take the public backlash to their actions in stride and try to improve in the meantime – which may placate the representative from New York.
Is This Already a Moot Point?
The US Army and Navy have both already decided to pull the plug on their Twitch efforts following backlash from the community and AOC around their methods. Thus, this move could be seen as a preventive one if the Army decides to try again in a few months after the backlash calms down. After all, with it in law that they cannot use their marketing budget in this way for recruitment, the Army would have no way to fund a return to Twitch.
It’s unclear exactly what would happen to the US Army’s esports division if this law was to pass – and if they would be allowed to stream on Twitch at all. But given that the US Army’s esports team is largely considered to be marketing aimed at young people, it’s unlikely that there’s a loophole for the team to exist at all in any meaningful way, especially as live events are still not happening due to COVID.
This might mean that the Armed Forces, which had been sponsoring esports teams and doing other activations on Twitch, might be discouraged altogether from using their marketing spend in this way. This would mean teams like Cloud9 and the Chicago Huntsmen could be adversely affected by the negative stigma this even being brought to the house could mean.
The Army and Navy have both long sponsored sports teams, and surely looked at esports and Twitch as a new way to engage their audience. What they didn’t count on was the fact that over-extending themselves on this platform was going to cause as much blowback as it did, especially in the midst of a pandemic and moment in the United States where people are much more generally aware of social issues due to a lack of distractions.