Revelations about the Norway mass murderer's love of violent online video games have underlined concerns about the use of such games by jihadists. While other forms of online communication can be monitored, the government's "Reynard Program" is documenting the hole in online security presented by virtual world and mass online video games, according to Aaron Saenz of singularityhub.com.
"Hundreds of millions of people flock to massively multiplayer online role playing games like World of Warcraft, and revel in online virtual worlds like Second Life …and somewhere in those millions are terrorists looking to plot the next big attack against Western civilization," says Saenz. This follows revelations about government monitoring of online conversations by gang members, who were communicating about crimes while playing popular Play Station 3 and XBOX 360 shooting games.
The government's interest in the use of such games sparked the "Reynard Program," a multiyear monitoring effort carried out by the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. Reynard, launched in the last quarter of 2009 and ending next year, is designed to generate information about online users who may be planning violent or criminal activity. By developing a better understanding of who uses video games and for what purposes, the government hopes to develop strategies for plugging the security gap presented by online communities.
"While there have been noted examples of terror organizations like Al Qaeda recruiting members through email, porn sites, and other internet forums, considerably less is known about recruitment and training in online games," Saenz notes. However, jihadists have noticed the popularity of violent games with their fan base, and have developed modifications of existing games that appeal to them. They have also created violent cartoons to communicate their message.
Monitoring video games, especially violent ones, may also present an acceptable middle ground between those who play them and those that support their ban.