Computer games which allow users to play as the perpetrators of real-life terrorist attacks have been available online. Counter-extremism experts believe the games have been used by terrorist groups to recruit members.
According to The Times:
Computer games that simulate 40 terrorist attacks, including the Christchurch and Buffalo atrocities, have been available to play online.
A gaming platform enabled users to play as the original perpetrators, according to Tech Against Terrorism (Tat), a UN-backed group that counters extremism online. The platform also had versions of the Oslo, Utoya, Bataclan and Nairobi shopping centre attacks.
Terrorist groups, particularly the far right, are increasingly using the gaming world to recruit, vet and share propaganda, according to Tat’s annual report.
Exposure to white supremacist ideologies in online gaming doubled last year, according to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League based in the United States. It highlights that only one major gaming platform, Roblox, has an extremism policy.
Adam Hadley, executive director of Tat, accused the gaming platforms of being in denial. He said: “Our impression is that there are a number of gaming platforms that are in denial about how a small minority of their users are using their platforms.”
He added that there was also a lack of understanding in government and among policymakers.
“There’s very little recognition of this risk. And there’s almost no capability or capacity that we’re aware of among governments to take this seriously.”
This month seven members of Congress have written to the top games companies putting pressure on them to do more to combat the problem.
Three terrorist attacks have been livestreamed on the gaming network Twitch: a shooting at a synagogue in Halle in 2019, a stabbing at a school in Sweden in 2021, and the killing of ten people at a supermarket in Buffalo last year.
Payton Gendron, 18, the Buffalo attacker, claimed in a diary: “I probably wouldn’t be as nationalistic if it weren’t for Blood and Iron on Roblox.”
Hadley said that the majority of far-right atrocities by lone attackers have been advertised in advance on the gaming network.
The improved content moderation by the major tech platforms and weaker systems on gaming networks are seen as contributors to the trend.
As gaming has become networked, extremists have realised that they have a good, and often willing captive audience.
“Strategically, it just makes a lot of sense for them [extremists] to be on these platforms, because there are millions of users playing, they’re talking to each other.
It’s just as strategically useful as being on Instagram, because it draws a lot of people. And so if you want to communicate your propaganda, it’s one of the places to be,” said Linda Schlegel, of Goethe University, in Frankfurt, in a presentation to the Extremism and Gaming Research Network, (EGRN), a section of the Royal United Services Institute.