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“How the military is using esports, Twitch and murky “giveaways” to trick kids into filling out recruiting forms” by Jordan Uhl

Gamingtodaynews1g - "How the military is using esports, Twitch and murky "giveaways" to trick kids into filling out recruiting forms" by Jordan Uhl
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military recruitment twitch - "How the military is using esports, Twitch and murky "giveaways" to trick kids into filling out recruiting forms" by Jordan Uhl

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Branches that use e-sports and Twitch streams to reach and recruit younger viewers rely on sleight-of-hand tactics, false promises, and deceptive messaging to trick them into filling out recruiting forms.

Twitch viewers in the Army’s channel are repeatedly presented with an automated chat prompt that says they could win a Xbox Elite Series 2 controller…and a link where they can enter the “giveaway.” It too directs them to a recruiting form with no additional mention of a contest, odds, total number of winners, or when a drawing will occur.

The Army declined to comment.

The Twitter account for the US Army e-sports team links to a sparsely populated page with REGISTER TO WIN! at the top, no details on what one could even win, and a sign-up form that, according to a tiny disclosure at the bottom of the page, subjects a person to a haranguing Army recruiter. It allows people as young as 12 to submit the form but adds a notice on the post-submission page that they can only contact children once they reach 16, the minimum age requirement for recruiters to contact someone in the United States.

The inaugural Navy e-sports team commissioned earlier this year consists of 10 people. To qualify for the e-sports team, you must be at least an E-4, Petty Officer Third Class, which takes on average two to three years to reach. One cannot join the Navy and immediately be on the e-sports team, but the Navy’s Twitch channel features a bio that reads, “Other people will tell you not to stay up all night staring at a screen. We’ll pay you to do it. Get a look at what life is like inside the uniform on the America’s Navy.”

Lara Bollinger, a public affairs officer with the Navy Recruiting Command, said in an email that the bio is, “a nod to the fact that when standing watch in various capacities on a ship (on the bridge, in the combat information center, etc.) a Sailor will be looking at various screens, (radar, sonar, navigation, etc…).”

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The practices employed on Twitch by military e-sports teams are part of a system where recruiters target children in unstable and/or disadvantaged situations. Recruiters take advantage of the poor seeking steady income, the vulnerable longing for stability, and the
undocumented living in fear due to their citizenship status. Now, at a time when all those are magnified due to a pandemic that has left
half the country out of work and over 30 percent unable to afford their housing payments, conditions are ripe for recruiters to prey on those vulnerabilities.

“They don’t talk about military sexual trauma, they don’t talk about the suicide rate. It’s mostly: ‘We can pay for your school. You can serve your country,’” Viges said. “When I ask kids why they want to join, it’s either ‘I want to serve my nation’ or ‘I want to pay for college.’ I imagine recruiters feed off those two motivations the most.”

“It was interesting to see Call of Duty want to express support for Black Lives Matter. But what active steps will the creators take to make sure the way the military preys on poor Black and brown kids in recruitment isn’t also happening with the help of their video game?”

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