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Twitch Forces US Army to Stop Sharing Fake Giveaways That Link to Recruitment Page

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  • Twitch has ordered the U.S. Army to stop offering fake giveaways on its platform.
  • The issue first came to light after a reporter noticed that a prize giveaway link, which was posted into the chat box of an Army esports stream, redirected users to a recruitment page. 
  • According to that reporter, the recruitment page offered “no additional mention of a contest, odds, total number of winners, or when a drawing will occur.”
  • Separately, the U.S. Army has also faced substantial blowback for banning Twitch users asking about war crimes, a move that potentially violates free speech laws.

US Army Offers Fake Giveaways

After the United States Army was allegedly caught promising fake prize giveaways on Twitch to promote its recruitment page, Twitch has ordered it to abandon the strategy.

The practice was first detailed by reporter Jordan Uhl in The Nation on Wednesday and stems from the Army’s esports team, which regularly streams on Twitch as a way to talk to teens about life in the military and recruitment options. Both the Navy and the Air Force also have esports teams that stream on Twitch.

In the chat box of those streams, the Army would reportedly post automated links promoting prize giveaways. For example, one prize included an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller; however, once people clicked the link to try to win that controller, they weren’t taken to a page to enter that drawing. 

Instead, according to The Nation, they were directed to “a recruiting form with no additional mention of a contest, odds, total number of winners, or when a drawing will occur.”

The news prompted outrage among some streamers and game developers who then urged Twitch to take action against the U.S. Army esports channel.

“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,” streamer Jayson “MANvsGame” Love said on Twitter. “Imagine ANY other channel doing that. Feel free to manipulate your viewers as much as you like, I guess?”

On Thursday, gaming website Kotaku reported that Twitch had forced the Army to stop tricking viewers, with Twitch saying in a statement to the outlet, “Per our Terms of Service, promotions on Twitch must comply with all applicable laws. This promotion did not comply with our Terms, and we have required them to remove it.”

Meanwhile, the Army has remained silent on why it allegedly engaged in fake giveaway tactics. 

Is the US Army Also Violating Free Speech Laws on Twitch?

The fake giveaway is not the only Twitch-related controversy the Army has recently faced. Last week, after catching wind of users being banned for asking uncomfortable questions, Uhl reported that the Army’s Twitch channel banned him after he asked about war crimes during a stream—a move that could be seen as a blockage of free speech.

In a recorded video, Uhl asks other viewers what their favorite U.S. war crime is in the chat box of that stream. He then links to the Wikipedia page for U.S. war crimes. Seconds after that, he is banned.

“Have a nice time getting banned, my dude,” Army recruiter and gamer Joshua “Strotnium” David tells Uhl just before the video ends. 

The U.S. Army (and its esports team) are not private entities. While general Twitch streamers can moderate their channels however they wish, public forums hosted by the government are generally required to abide by strict free speech laws.

In response, the Army later confirmed that it banned Uhl directly because of his comments, arguing that those comments violated Twitch’s harassment policies.

“Team members are very clear when talking with potential applicants that a game does not reflect a real Army experience,” a representative of the U.S. Army esports team told Vice. “They discuss their career experiences in real terms with factual events.”

“Team members ensure people understand what the Army offers through a realistic lens and not through the lens of a game meant for entertainment. This user’s question was an attempt to shift the conversation to imply that Soldiers commit war crimes based on an optional weapon in a game, and we felt that violated Twitch’s harassment policy.”

“The U.S. Army offers youth more than 150 different careers, and ultimately the goal of the Army eSports Team is to accurately portray that range of opportunities to interested youth.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, has argued that “calling out the government’s war crimes isn’t harassment, it’s speaking truth to power. And banning users who ask important questions isn’t ‘flexing,’ it’s unconstitutional.”

Concerns Over Army Streaming With Teens

“Was I undiplomatic?,” Uhl asked in his Wednesday article. “Sure. But if the military is going to use one of the world’s most popular platforms to recruit kids, then it shouldn’t be able to do so without some pushback. Right now, with the support of Twitch, gamers with the US military are spending hours with children as young as 13, trying to convince them to enlist.”

As Uhl noted, the military’s newfound use of Twitch could be an even more effective method than “approaching a recruiter behind a table in a school cafeteria.” For example, “kids can hang out with one who is playing their favorite video games and replying to their chat messages for hours on end.”

Of the four main branches of the military, only the Marine Corps has refused to launch an esports team. 

“This is due in part to the belief that the brand and issues associated with combat are too serious to be ‘gamified’ in a responsible manner,” the Marine Corps Recruiting Command said in January. 

See what others are saying: (The Nation) (Kotaku) (The Verge)

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Says Trump Ban Was the “Right Decision” But Sets “Dangerous” Precedent

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  • While defending Twitter’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, CEO Jack Dorsey noted the “dangerous” precedent such a move set.
  • “Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Dorsey said in a lengthy Twitter thread on Wednesday. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning.”
  • Dorsey’s message came the same day Twitter fully reinstated Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Co.) account, hours after locking it for violating Twitter rules. A Twitter spokesperson later described the lock as an “incorrect enforcement action.”

Dorsey Describes Trump Ban as a Double-Edged Sword

In a lengthy Twitter thread published Wednesday, CEO Jack Dorsey defended his platform’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, while also noting the “dangerous” precedent such a unilateral move sets.

Twitter made the decision to ban Trump on Jan. 8, two days after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol complex in an assault that left multiple dead.

“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban [Trump] from Twitter, or how we got here,” Dorsey said in the first of 13 tweets. 

Nonetheless, Dorsey described Trump’s ban as “the right decision for Twitter.”

“Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” he added.

“That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications,” Dorsey continued.

“[It] sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

Dorsey described most bans as a failure of Twitter to “promote healthy conversation,” though he noted that exceptions to such a mindset also exist. Among other failures, Dorsey said extreme actions like a ban can “fragment public conversation,” divide people, and limit “clarification, redemption, and learning.”

Dorsey: Trump Bans Were Not Coordinated

Dorsey continued his thread by addressing claims and criticism that Trump’s ban on Twitter violated free speech.

“A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same,” he said.

Indeed, multiple legal experts have stated that Trump’s ban on social media does not amount to First Amendment violations, as the First Amendment only addresses government censorship. 

“If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service,” Dorsey added. However, Dorsey noted that such a concept has been challenged over the past week. 

Trump has now been banned or suspended from a number of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. On Wednesday, Snapchat announced plans to terminate Trump’s account in the “interest of public safety.” Previously, Snapchat had only suspended his account, but as of Jan. 20, it will be permanently banned. 

Addressing criticism of the swift bans handed down by these platforms in the wake of the Capitol attack, Dorsey said he doesn’t believe Trump’s bans on social media were coordinated.

“More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others,” he said.

Twitter Reverses Course of Locking Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Account

Dorsey’s thread regarding the fragile nature of regulating users’ privileges on the platform seemed to play out earlier the same day.

On Wednesday, newly-elected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) posted a screenshot to Instagram showing that her Twitter account had been locked for six days. The screenshot stated that she had violated Twitter’s rules and would be unable to tweet, retweet, or like until her account was unlocked. 

Hours later, Twitter reversed course and fully reinstated her account. 

“In this instance, our teams took the incorrect enforcement action. The Tweet in question is now labeled in accordance with our Civic Integrity Policy. The Tweet will not be required to be removed and the account will not be temporarily locked,” a spokesperson for the platform told Insider.

It is unknown what tweet caused that initial ban, as Twitter refused to say. 

The latest tweet from Boebert’s account to be tagged with a fact check warning is from Sunday. In that tweet, she baselessly and falsely accuses the DNC of rigging the 2020 Election, a claim that largely inspired the Capitol attacks. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (CNN) (Associated Press)

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Uber and Lyft Drivers Sue To Overturn California’s Prop 22

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  • A group of Uber and Lyft drivers filed a lawsuit Tuesday against California’s controversial Prop 22, a ballot measure that was approved by nearly 59% of state voters in the 2020 election. 
  • While Prop 22 does promise drivers wage guarantees and health insurance stipends, it also eliminated some protections as well as benefits like sick pay and workers’ compensation.
  • In their lawsuit, the drivers argue that Prop 22 “illegally” prevents them from being able to access the state’s workers’ compensation program. 

What’s in the Lawsuit?

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, a group of Uber and Lyft drivers asked California’s Supreme Court to overturn the state’s controversial Prop 22 ballot measure.

The drivers behind the lawsuit, along with Service Employees International Union, allege that Prop 22 “illegally” bars them from being able to participate in the state’s workers’ compensation program. 

Additionally, they argue that the measure violates California’s constitution by“stripping” the state legislature of its ability to protect who unionize. 

“Every day, rideshare drivers like me struggle to make ends meet because companies like Uber and Lyft prioritize corporate profits over our wellbeing,” Plaintiff Saori Okawa said in a statement. 

Conversely, Uber driver and Prop 22 activist Jim Pyatt denounced the lawsuit, saying,“Voters across the political spectrum spoke loud and clear, passing Prop 22 in a landslide. Meritless lawsuits that seek to undermine the clear democratic will of the people do not stand up to scrutiny in the courts.”

California ballot measures have been occasionally repealed in the past; however, most of the time, they’ve only been repealed following subsequent ballot measures. If this lawsuit fails, such an initiative would likely be the last option for overturning Prop 22.

What is Prop 22?

Prop 22, which was approved by 59% of state voters in the 2020 Election, exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from having to classify their drivers as employees. Rather, those drivers are listed as “independent contractors,” also known as gig workers. 

Notably, Prop 22 was supported by major industry players like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft, and Instacart, which launched a massive $200 million lobbying and advertising campaign.

While those companies did promise wage guarantees and health insurance stipends for drivers, Prop 22 also eliminated a number of protections and benefits drivers would have seen under an “employee” status, including sick pay and workers’ compensation. 

Because of that, many opponents have argued that the measure incentivizes companies to lay off their employees in favor of cheaper labor options.

Last week, it was reported that grocery stores like Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions began laying off their delivery workers in favor of switching to ”third-party logistics providers.” According to Albertson’s, unionized delivery workers were not included in the layoffs. 

In recent coverage from KPBS, one San Diego Vons delivery worker detailed a situation in which he and delivery workers were called into a meeting with management. 

“I thought they were going to give us a bonus or a raise or something like that,” he said. 

Ultimately, that employee was told he would be losing his job in late February, even though he had been with the company for two-and-a-half years. 

“I didn’t want to tell them,” the employee said of his parents, one of whom is disabled. “I’m the breadwinner for the family.”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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Daniel Silva Blames Cory La Barrie for His Own Death in New Legal Filing

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  • Popular Tattoo artist Daniel Silva said the death of YouTuber Cory La Barrie was due to La Barrie’s “own negligence,” in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from his family.
  • La Barrie died last May after Silva lost control of the sports car they were in, crashing into a street sign and tree. 
  • La Barrie’s family has accused Silva of negligence, saying his excessive speeding caused the crash. They also claim he was under the influence, though he was never formally charged with a DUI. 
  • According to TMZ, Silva filed documents saying La Barrie “assumed the risk of death when he jumped into Daniel’s car that fateful night back in May.”

Corey La Barrie’s Death

Popular tattoo artist Daniel Silva has blamed YouTuber Corey La Barrie for his own death in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from La Barrie’s family, according to TMZ.

The tabloid says he filed legal documents saying, “the car crash that led to Corey’s death was due to his own negligence, and he assumed the risk of death when he jumped into Daniel’s car that fateful night back in May.”

La Barrie died on May 10, his 25th birthday, after Silva was speeding and lost control of the sports car they were in, crashing into a street sign and tree.

Police say Silva tried to leave the scene but was stopped by witnesses. He was later arrested and charged with murder. Silva eventually reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead no contest to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

In August, Silva was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with credit for 216 days served because of California sentencing guidelines, even though it had only been 108 days since the crash at the time.

He also earned five years of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a suspended prison sentence of four years, which would be imposed if he violates the terms of his probation.

Wrongful Death Suit

Silva still faces the family’s lawsuit, which they filed the same month their son died.

In it, La Barrie’s family has accused Silva of negligence, saying his excessive speeding caused the crash. They also claim he was driving under the influence.

It’s worth noting that people close to Silva have disputed that claim and he was never charged with a DUI. However, the first police statement about the crash labeled it aDUI Fatal Traffic Collision.” Witnesses have said the two were partying earlier that night, though

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (USA Today) (Variety)

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