Homeland security officials in New Jersey are increasingly concerned about a new trend being used in recruiting and radicalizing potential terrorists.

It’s happening online using video games.

Laurie Doran, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said we now know that “foreign and domestic extremist groups use online gaming and social media to help recruit and radicalize young people — could be high school people, college age.”

“There are different kinds of gaming platforms that tend to attract users who are younger, exposing younger generations on these extremist narratives," she said.

Role-playing and radicalization

She noted video games that allow people to role-play are frequently used in recruitment and radicalization scenarios.

Doran said some examples of this are Nazi and Chinese concentration camps (where Chinese authorities imprison Uyghur minorities) in games "where players were invited to become a racist and to simulate the murder of people belonging to ethnic minorities by running them over with a car.”

She said she finds this horrendous and scary but this falls under freedom of expression and this can be presented in the form of a game.

She pointed out analysts have been studying this for quite some time and while they don’t monitor or censor conversations on video gaming platforms, “we have noticed in our analysis that white racially motivated extremist groups in New Jersey and other places continue to capitalize on current events, with grievances against minorities, immigrants, etc.”

She said it’s important for parents to keep an open line of communication with their kids and find out what gaming sites they are involved with online because they can “see things there or hear things there that is as scary as that, with people reaching out to them.”

Play game with a joystick
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Know what they're doing

She said mothers and fathers should familiarize themselves with signs of possible terror-related suspicious activity that might show up on a video game platform, like an expressed or implied threat.

“That essentially would be like someone threatening to commit a crime that may want to harm or kill people or cause damage to a facility or a site.”

She noted there is a video on the NJOHSP website that challenges teens to report suspicious behaviors and indicators, and anyone with concerns can all 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ.

The 15 signs of terrorism-related suspicious activity

Expressed or Implied Threat:
Threatening to commit a crime that could harm or kill people or damage a facility, infrastructure or secured site

Breach/Attempted Intrusion/Trespassing:
Unauthorized people trying to enter restricted areas or impersonating authorized personnel

Attempting to recruit or radicalize others by providing tradecraft advice or distributing propaganda materials

A prolonged interest in taking pictures/videos of personnel, facilities, security features or infrastructure in an unusual or covert manner

Acquiring Expertise:
Gaining skills or knowledge on a specific topic such as a facility security, military tactics or flying a plane

Providing direct financial support to operations teams and contacts, often through suspicious banking/financial transactions

Stealing or diverting items such as equipment, uniforms or badges that belong to a facility or secured site

Eliciting Information:
Questioning personnel beyond mere curiosity about an event, facility or operations

Damaging or destroying part of a facility, infrastructure or secured site

Testing Security:
Probing or testing a facility’s security or IT systems to assess the strength or weakness of the target

Presenting false information or misusing documents to conceal possible illegal activity

Material Acquisition/Storage:
Acquisition and/or storage of unusual quantities of materials, such as cell phones, radio controllers or toxic materials

Aviation Activity:
Operating or interfering with the operation of an aircraft that poses a threat of harm to people and property

Cyber Attack:
Disrupting or compromising an organization’s information technology systems

Weapon Collection/Storage:
Collection or discovery of unusual amounts of weapons including explosives, chemicals or other destructive materials

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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