Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [D-NY] defended her measure to prevent the U.S. military from recruiting via Twitch in Congress today.
“War is not a game,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This amendment is specifically to block funding for recruitment practices on services such as Twitch.t, which are live streaming platforms largely populated by children well under the age of military recruitment rules. Children as young as 13...are targeted for recruitment forms that can be filled online.”
Rep. Pete Visclosky [D-IN], the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, spoke in opposition to the amendment to the draft of the House appropriations bill. “We have seen abuses, setting the issue of technology aside, with recruiters making false promises,” Rep. Visclosky admitted. “That’s why we have controls in place. That’s why those people are punished.”
Visclosky argued that Twitch has age controls in place and that the U.S. Army esports team’s Twitch channel was set to screen out viewers younger than 18.
“I would grant that it is very difficult in many instances to verify age online,” he said. “And I do find recent media reports of the U.S. Army esports team banning commenters concerning...the concern is well placed...but I do have to oppose the gentlewoman’s amendment.”
“Once these lights are turned on it’s very difficult to roll them back. Right now, children on Twitch are bombarded with banner ads that link to recruitment sign up forms that can be submitted by children as young as 12 years old,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said in response. “These are not educational outreach programs but recruitment forms for the military.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez urged caution. “When it comes to issues of technology, I believe that we should act with reservation and cautio first rather than entering with both feet in and trying to undo damage that may be done,” she said. “That’s why I believe we should restrain and restrict ourselves from explicitly recruitment tactics on platforms that children are using to play games from Animal Crossing to Call of Duty.”
“We can not conflate war and military service with this kind of gamified format,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The Speaker called for a vote on the amendment and it passed, but Rep. Ken Calvert [R-CA] called for a closer vote. These kinds of measures, amendments attached to larger bills, are typically voted on with a simple vocal vote in the house. But it’s the right of Representatives to call for closer count if they wish.
It looks good for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment, but it may be a day or more until we learn if it officially passed and makes it to the next legislative round. The House Appropriations Bill still needs to be reconciled with other bills in Congress, and there’s still lots of opportunities for the Twitch amendment to be removed.