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The DHS is making investments of $700,000 in play counterterrorism research.

The research will focus on the use of big multiplayer social platforms’ as passageways for white supremacist militancy.

So according to Ars Technica, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS)(opens in new tab) is going to devote well almost $700,000 to a research project aimed at countering.
The $699,763 grant will invest in research aiming at the “development of a set of best practices and centralized resources for monitoring and assessing extremist activities.”

Three companies are functioning on the project: the Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Antiterrorism; Take This, which concentrates on mental health in gaming; and Logically, which explores ways to deal with bad online activity.

The research sought to find ways to prevent militancy and terrorist recruitment thru the games like Roblox, in addition to games from Blizzard and Bungie. In other words, it is concentrating on games that function both as social hubs as well as playable experiences. As stated in the DHS grant announcement, game developers of all widths “have lagged in the consciousness of how extremists may strive to exploit their games.”

The Ars article quotes a 2021 ADL survey (which means an opening in a new tab) as an example of the unchallenged growth of extremist subcultures in online gaming’s underbelly. The survey found:

  • 10% of people aged 13 to 17 who have been surveyed had been revealed to have white supremacist conversations and ideology in games.
  • While playing, 7% of adult people online were revealed to be Holocaust denial.
  • Almost half of the women surveyed, and 41% of black people, had encountered identity-based bullying while playing online.

The grant also happens to coincide with the DHS’s recent shift in focus, which also recognizes “racially driven violent extremists white supremacist extremists” as the “most continual and lethal threat in the Homeland.”

Take This’s Dr. Rachel Kowert told Vice’s Motherboard(opens in new tab) that the project’s study will most probably focus on “white nationalism and white supremacy” in games. From my limited perspective, it makes sense. Despite my status as an asocial hobgoblin who rarely plays large multiplayer, I can recollect several occurrences when I’ve met far-right loudmouths in my brief and infrequent multi-player excursions.

After all, Discord only had to delete over a thousand servers (opens in a new tab) from its service last year for going to host violent extremism. This is a continuing problem across the internet, including gaming.

According to Kowert, this type of study was virtually non-existent previous to the project’s founding. Of course, it will take more than a $700,000 grant to stop the spread of poisonous ideologies, but the project must bring the problem much-needed attention.

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