Some extremist groups are using multiplayer games and in-game chat functions as a way to recruit new members, NPR reports.
It’s happening not only in-game, but via platforms like Discord and Reddit, as well. Some recruitment occurs during game livestreams on Twitch and YouTube, and even some harassment campaign planning occurs via these platforms.
Unicorn Riot published chat logs from Discord last year which revealed plans for the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally from white supremacists, according to NPR.
So why are the groups taking to gaming spaces for new members? According to Joan Donovan of Data and Society, a research institute, white supremacists have a history of being innovative with using online spaces for recruitment. And, Donovan says that first-person shooter games are one space to find angry young men, according to NPR.
“I saw how these groups communicated and spread out to other spaces online with the intent of not telling people specifically that they were white supremacists, but they were really trying to figure out what young men were angry about and how they could leverage that to bring about a broad-based social movement,” Donovan said.
While gaming platforms like Steam often ban hate speech, it’s a challenge to find the hate groups with so many users. As a result, many platforms rely on users to report hateful speech.
Greg Boyd of the law firm Frankfurt Kurnit pointed out that Microsoft, PlayStation, and Steam host 48 million, 70 million, and 130 million active users, respectively, every month.
“That’s the populations of Spain, France, and Russia,” Boyd said. “And then imagine that you’re monitoring all of their text chat…all of their voice chat, in literally every language, dialect, and subdialect spoken in the world.”