US Homeland Security to spend $700,000 to investigate video game ‘radicalisation’

The United States Department of Homeland Security has awarded a nearly $700,000 grant to terrorism and security researchers to investigate “radicalization” through video games.

As Vice reports, the funds are going to the Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism (CTEC), the nonprofit organization Take This, and a company that wants to curb toxic online behavior called Logically.

“In the last decade, video games have increasingly become central points of social activity and identity formation for teenagers and young adults. The relationships created and nurtured within game ecosystems regularly carry over into the real world and are places that impact local communities,” the grant announcement on the DHS website said. “Correspondingly, extremists have used video games and targeted video game communities for activities ranging from creating propaganda to mobilizing and training terrorists.”

One of the aims of this new project is to develop a “bundle of best practices and centralized resources for monitoring and assessing extremist activities, as well as a series of training workshops on monitoring, detecting and preventing extremist exploitation in gaming venues for community managers, multiplayer designers, delivery developers, engineering designers, and trust and security professionals.”

The release notes that video game studios of all sizes, in many cases, are not fully trained on how these extremists might try to exploit their games in an attempt to radicalize players. White nationalists have unfortunately found a foothold in this space, as there have been groups on Steam that “openly espouse neo-Nazi beliefs and worship school shooters” in the past.” Steam has tried to remove these groups, but the people behind it want a grant to proceed further.

Dr. CTEC’s Rachel Kowert and Alex Newhouse shared some of their early findings at this year’s Game Developers Conference, and confirms that the initial focus will “lean toward white nationalism and white supremacy.” Hopefully, their efforts will make some lasting change in this industry and beyond.

This effort comes in the wake of the racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, which was streamed on Twitch and saw ten people killed and three others injured.

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Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and up Drawing.

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