A former white supremacist turned peace advocate and author has confirmed what some have speculated in the past – that hate groups use online multiplayer games to prey on potential recruits.
This is not a wholly new idea, considering if you were to look for easy communication with large numbers of young people with malleable mindsets who don’t have their guard up, multiplayer gaming is a well populated zone.
But as a former white supremacist, Christian Picciolini has an insight into the recruiting methods of these groups unlike most, and in more depth than it is perhaps possible for law enforcement to comprehend.
During a recent Reddit AMA, Picciolini was discussing various aspects of how white supremacy and other hate groups operate, went into detail about their use of gaming in recruitment.
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When asked generally about the predatory nature of recruitment, Picciolini mentioned multiplayer gaming specifically as one of the more modern methods.
Did you see a lot of predatory behavior on poor and disenfranchised youth when you were younger in the recruiting methods the groups used? What was the common type of person who would join one of these groups?
Picciolini: Absolutely! We sought marginalized youth and promised them “paradise.” Today they are using nefarious tactics like going to depression and mental health forums and in multiplayer gaming to recruit those same people.
You mentioned multiplayer games. Do white supremacists have people who just sit and play Overwatch, League, that type of thing and just spam their slurs or what is that tactic like?
Picciolini: They drop benign hints and then ramp up when hooked.
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And when asked what kind of games in particular, Picciolini named some of the most modern trending games – including Fortnite, Minecraft and Call of Duty.
He also seems to suggest that this tactic is one most associated with groups based in Eastern Europe.
Fortnight [Fortnite], Minecraft, COD, all of them. Yes, mostly foreign recruiters from Russia and eastern Europe and Poland.
Games such as Fortnite and Minecraft are more specifically targeted at children, with Minecraft being rated for ages 3 and above, Fortnite 12 and above.
Call of Duty games are typically rated for 17 or 18 year olds, but it is common for many people younger to be playing these games too.
It is a significant word of warning from someone with inside knowledge of these kinds of operations and groups and one that will instil a sense of awareness in young players.
Anyone suspicious of interactions possibly linked to hate groups during multiplayer gaming should report them to authorities and also flag the accounts to the gaming network (PSN, Xbox Live, Steam etc. all have methods to report hateful behavior).