Filed Under: Tech

DHS allocates almost $700k to investigate extremism on gaming platforms

By

The Department of Homeland Security has awarded a $699,763 grant to a joint venture to investigate the rise of extremism in gaming.

“Over the past decade, video games have increasingly become focal points of social activity and identity creation for adolescents and young adults. Relationships made and fostered within game ecosystems routinely cross over into the real world and are impactful parts of local communities. Correspondingly, extremists have used video games and targeted video game communities for activities ranging from propaganda creation to terrorist mobilization and training,” the DHS wrote on the grant announcement that was first reported by Vice.

Since 9/11, counterterrorism efforts have focused largely outside U.S. borders. However, officials have increasingly been warning over an uptick in domestic extremist violence.

Axios reported that the growth of gaming platforms has led to massive opportunities for recruitment and organizing by extremist groups. “Game developers in general — from small, independent studios to billion-dollar multinational corporations — have lagged in awareness of how extremists may attempt to exploit their games, and how their communities can be targeted for radicalization,” the DHS announcement stated.

The grant money will go toward a joint project by the Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, mental health non-profit Take This and Logically, a startup company that claims to use artificial intelligence to analyze misinformation. The efforts will “seek the development of a set of best practices and centralized resources for monitoring and evaluation of extremist activities,” according to the DHS.

Online gaming has become a huge part of American life. Some 69% of Americans have at least one video game player in their household, based on figures from the Entertainment Software Association. While many gaming platforms employ general content moderation features, researchers have expressed concerns over the lack of comprehensive measures to shield users from expressions of radicalism.

One report from the Anti-Defamation League found that almost one in four players, 23%, said they have been “exposed to discussions about white supremacist ideology.” But just how widespread this extremism is across different gaming platforms remains anecdotal.

The organizations that received the grant say the topic of radicalization in gaming is very under-researched and that their research has already begun. The new project will span two years. Alex Newhouse, the deputy director of CTEC, told Ars Technica that the project will start by targeting big gaming companies that “essentially act like social platforms,” including Roblox, Activision Blizzard, and Bungie.

MAHMOUD BENNETT:

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IS INVESTING MONEY TO STUDY THE GROWING PRESENCE OF EXTREMISM ON GAMING PLATFORMS

THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY AWARDING 700 THOUSAND DOLLARS TO A JOINT VENTURE TO MONITOR EXTREMIST ACTIVITIES AND REPORT BACK

SINCE 9/11 U.S. COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS HAVE BEEN FOCUSED LARGELY OUTSIDE OUR BORDERS – BUT TOP NATIONAL OFFICIALS HAVE RECENTLY BEEN ZEROING IN ON DOMESTIC THREATS
ACCORDING TO THE DHS EXTREMISTS HAVE TARGETED A RANGE OF PLATFORMS INCLUDING VIDEO GAME COMMUNITIES – TO SPREAD PROPAGANDA AND MOBILIZE TERRORISTS

BUT WHY? WELL ONLINE GAMING IS A HUGE PART OF AMERICAN LIFE: 69% OF AMERICAN HOUSEHOLDS HAVE AT LEAST ONE GAMER – AND ASIDE FROM CONTENT MODERATION THERE HAVE BEEN NO COMPREHENSIVE EFFORTS TO SHIELD USERS FROM VIOLENT RADICALISM – THAT’S ACCORDING TO A CONCLUSION FROM THE EXTREMISM AND GAMING RESEARCH NETWORK

THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE DID A STUDY IN WHICH NEARLY A QUARTER OF USERS CLAIMED THEY WERE EXPOSED TO WHITE SUPREMACIST IDEOLOGY WHILE GAMING – BUT JUST HOW WIDESPREAD THAT ACTUALLY IS REMAINS ANECDOTAL

THE DHS SAYS DEVELOPERS HAVE LAGGED IN THEIR AWARENESS AND THAT THIS 700K INVESTMENT WILL DEVELOP SOME BEST PRACTICES TO MONITOR, DETECT, AND PREVENT EXTREMIST EXPLOITATION.

The Department of Homeland Security has awarded a $699,763 grant to a joint venture to investigate the rise of extremism in gaming.

“Over the past decade, video games have increasingly become focal points of social activity and identity creation for adolescents and young adults. Relationships made and fostered within game ecosystems routinely cross over into the real world and are impactful parts of local communities. Correspondingly, extremists have used video games and targeted video game communities for activities ranging from propaganda creation to terrorist mobilization and training,” the DHS wrote on the grant announcement that was first reported by Vice.

Since 9/11, counterterrorism efforts have focused largely outside U.S. borders. However, officials have increasingly been warning over an uptick in domestic extremist violence.

Axios reported that the growth of gaming platforms has led to massive opportunities for recruitment and organizing by extremist groups. “Game developers in general — from small, independent studios to billion-dollar multinational corporations — have lagged in awareness of how extremists may attempt to exploit their games, and how their communities can be targeted for radicalization,” the DHS announcement stated.

The grant money will go toward a joint project by the Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, mental health non-profit Take This and Logically, a startup company that claims to use artificial intelligence to analyze misinformation. The efforts will “seek the development of a set of best practices and centralized resources for monitoring and evaluation of extremist activities,” according to the DHS.

Online gaming has become a huge part of American life. Some 69% of Americans have at least one video game player in their household, based on figures from the Entertainment Software Association. While many gaming platforms employ general content moderation features, researchers have expressed concerns over the lack of comprehensive measures to shield users from expressions of radicalism.

One report from the Anti-Defamation League found that almost one in four players, 23%, said they have been “exposed to discussions about white supremacist ideology.” But just how widespread this extremism is across different gaming platforms remains anecdotal.

The organizations that received the grant say the topic of radicalization in gaming is very under-researched and that their research has already begun. The new project will span two years. Alex Newhouse, the deputy director of CTEC, told Ars Technica that the project will start by targeting big gaming companies that “essentially act like social platforms,” including Roblox, Activision Blizzard, and Bungie.

Related Reports

No related reports found.

Get ready to rate in…

Community Rating

Community ratings are revealed after you rate the story.

lock

Watch the report to unlock rating

Rate the bias

Keep us honest! Let us know if you thought this video was neutral or biased.

Comments are still pending approval. Rate this story to add your own thoughts below.