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DHS to invest Almost $700k Investigating Radicalization in Gaming

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The Department of Homeland Security has awarded a $699,763 grant to terrorism and security researchers to review the cross portion of extremism and gaming.

In the last decade, video gaming have increasingly become things of social activity and identity creation for adolescents and adults. Relationships made and fostered within game ecosystems routinely cross into the real life and so are impactful elements of local communities, the grant announcement on the DHS website said. Correspondingly, extremists purchased video gaming and targeted gaming communities for activities ranging frompropaganda creation to terrorist mobilization and training.

The amount of money will a jv between your Middlebury Institutes Focus on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC), Take This, that is a nonprofit focusing on mental health in gambling, and Logically, an organization wanting to solve the issue of bad online behavior at scale.

The project will seek to build up a couple of guidelines and centralized resources for monitoring and evaluation of extremist activities in addition to a group of training workshops for the monitoring, detection, and prevention of extremist exploitation in gaming spaces for community managers, multiplayer designers, lore developers, mechanics designers, and trust and safety professionals, based on the DHS announcement.

Extremism and terrorist recruitment, especially among white nationalist and white supremacists groups, is a prolific problem in the web gaming space. Game developers in generalfrom small, independent studios to billion-dollar multinational corporationshave lagged in knowing of how extremists may try to exploit their games, and how their communities could be targeted for radicalization, the DHS announcement said.

White nationalists along with other extremist groups have thrived in the web gaming space. For a couple years, the digital storefront Steam was a hotbed of groups openly espousing Neo-Nazi beliefs and worshiping school shooters. The Anti-Defamation League has reported on the issue, but nobody is fairly sure precisely how widespread it really is. Steam began quietly deleting the groups, however the problem persists.

Individuals behind this DHS project desire to change that. I realized this is an area that has been very under-researched (and by under researched After all there is literally none) also it was then that I pivoted might work towards considering hate, harassment, extremism, and radicalization in gaming spaces, Dr. Rachel Kowert, Research Director at Take This, told Motherboard. She reached out to Alex Newhouse, the Deputy Director at CTEC, and the pair started researching the problem. This grant may be the culmination of our efforts during the last 2-3 three years, she said.

Its not just a topic the U.S. Government has spent lots of time on. Before last couple of years, the federal governments counterterrorism efforts were largely centered on the center East. The FBI investigated threats linked to GamerGate and released its files on that to the general public in 2017. Kowert and Newhouse took part in a roundtable discussion at the DHS in 2021. In those days it was lots of postulation as the research just is incredibly limited in this space, Kowert said.

Newhouse and Kowert presented a few of their early findings at the overall game Developers Conference in 2022. This grant can help them build on that. From the preliminary work Alex and I’ve done, chances are that it’ll lean towards white nationalism and white supremacy, Kowert said.

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