ISIS is increasingly using online gaming as a means of communication between its fighters, recruitment and as a way to plan terror attacks around the world.
As other forms of communicating become increasingly transparent, online computer games represent one of the last secure platforms where a terrorist can exchange messages without fear that they will be intercepted.
“One of the advantages of playing computer games, especially competitively online is the high level of privacy and anonymity,” said an online gamer speaking to Clarion Project. “This means that transfer of personal and/or in-game information is kept with the highest security standard, and no government or organization may eavesdrop on these communication channels.
“This is how a gamer, for example, from Israel and gamer from Lebanon can play together without fear of being monitored. Naturally, this secure environment can also be used for illegal, criminal or terrorist purposes.”
In 2015, then-Interior Minister for Belgium, Jan Jambon, revealed that PlayStation 4 was used to plan the November 2015 Paris attacks. In those attacks, jihadis killed 130 people in coordinated attacks on a concert venue, cafés and restaurants and outside a soccer stadium.
Jambon added that games offer a perfect platform for jihadis to send coded messages to each other, as many online games enable users to communicate through secure text or voice messages.
Unlike coded messages sent through Facebook or Instagram — where authorities can much more easily discern what is a real message and what are “coded” words — it is not so simple in the case of gaming. Are the messages about the game or codes for an upcoming attack?
These online games also provide prime fodder for recruitment. Populated by young people – and particularly young people who are drawn to the extreme violence of many of the games, jihadi recruiters use these games to meet and lure young people into the fold.
Violent games have particularly negative effects on youth, according to the available research. ISIS gamers capitalize on these negative effects and use them to provoke violence in young players. Playing violent games alone can make a young person more interested in joining a terror group.
“In a computer game you are evaluated purely on your skills, your RL (real life) persona has no impact or relevance on your interaction inside the game,” noted Clarion’s source.
A charismatic ISIS member posing as a gamer can be looked upon with awe by young, impressionable players. These players are then groomed by the ISIS operative with the ultimate purpose of winning them over to the terror group.