Extremist recruitment reaching young Australian gamers
The AFP is urging parents and guardians to be aware of their child’s online activities, with AFP investigators seeing evidence of extremist groups accessing popular online games in a bid to recruit young Australians.
The AFP has seen a concerning trend of members and associates of extremist groups targeting young people to expose them to dangerous content - including violent recreations of actual terrorist events - across online gaming platforms.
The AFP identified one instance of a young Australian who engaged with extremist content depicting a recreation of the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack in a popular online game. The teen then allegedly shared the content across their social media channels.
AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Counter Terrorism and Special Investigations Command Sandra Booth said spreading extremist content in online gaming platforms was a serious concern for law enforcement agencies in Australia and around the world.
“We know that nationalist, racist and violent extremist content in online games is almost certainly part of a radicalisation process for some young people,” she said.
“There are a number of popular games that enable users to create scenarios and record them for others to re-watch and share online across social media.
“Our concern is extremist groups are exploiting these platforms to target a very young group of Australia’s population, by creating content to share and encourage far-right/extremist ideologies and abhorrent violence against others.”
Acting Assistant Commissioner Booth said Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremist groups using online games was a recent occurrence, but they and Religiously Motivated Violent Extremist groups had long used social media forums to push their agendas and spread propaganda.
The AFP has seen far-right terrorism-related investigations increase from two per cent, prior to 2020, to about 15 per cent in 2022.
The AFP and its law enforcement partners, through the Joint Counter Terrorism Teams, remain committed to identifying and disrupting anyone who attempts to incite violence and spread harmful messages through the Australian community.
“We know the global environment we are working in is rapidly evolving. This requires the AFP and our law enforcement partners to continually adapt to changing threats and remain aware of the many pathways that radicalisation can take,” Act. AC Booth said.
“We know individuals involved in extremist activities can come from a diverse range of social backgrounds and can be influenced by a range of complex factors. Countering these forms of violent extremism requires assistance from not only law enforcement, but from members of the public.”
Act AC Booth said parents and guardians could play a significant role in preventing extremist groups from preying on young Australians via online games.
“Prevention is the best option we have as a community. We encourage parents and guardians to take time to speak to their children, understand the games they may be accessing, what scenarios they may involve and who they may be interacting with in those games,” she said.
“It is critical parents and guardians help their children to understand this extremist ideology and violence online has an impact in the real world and is not, and will not be, tolerated in our society.”
What should parents be looking out for (behavioural indicators of radicalisation)
- Parents need to consider observing and interpreting their children’s behaviour online, like they do in the physical world.
- Signs to look out for, include:
- distancing themselves from their usual friends and family members;
- an increase in the extremist nature of their rhetoric, or propaganda they propagate;
- your child using hateful or emotionally-charged language;
- developing a fixation on conspiracy theories or contentious social issues;
- displaying extreme reactions to certain news or politics; or
- spending increasing amounts of time in fringe forums on the internet.
Steps for parents to take if their children are being exposed to radicalised material
- Be aware of what they are doing in the online world, and help steer them toward mainstream sources of factual information, rather than forums and chat groups on the fringe of the Internet;
- Talk to your local police or the AFP – a lot of police have community engagement teams, or can direct you to people with experience dealing with people holding extremist views;
- Speak to your children regularly about their online activities and interactions;
- Supervise your children – know what your child is doing online, who they are interacting with and what platforms, apps or games they are using;
- Be approachable if your child needs help - coming forward isn’t always easy and your child may feel reluctant to tell you about online issues if they believe they will be punished or have their devices taken away. This also makes children more secretive about device use and at greater risk of exploitation;
- As a parent you should ensure that you are checking privacy settings - we recommend you research and understand app settings, including privacy settings. This could include turning off location settings, setting profiles to private, or turning off chat functions;
- Know how to report an incident - if something goes wrong online, it is critical your child is supported. You need to know how to take action and report. If you think a child is in immediate danger call Triple Zero (000) or your local police (131 444). If you prefer to report anonymously, you can visit Crime Stoppers or call their toll free number 1800 333 000;
Anyone with information about extremist activity or possible threats to the community should come forward, no matter how small or insignificant you think the information may be. The National Security Hotline is 1800 123 400.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297