In May 2023, the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights published the report, Gaming the System: How Extremists Exploit Gaming Sites and What Can Be Done to Counter Them.
The report readily connects real world events—such as the 2019 deadly attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand and the 2023 media reports wherein top secret military documents were shared on Discord, a gaming-adjacent platform, and then spread online—to extremists’ exploitation and infiltration of online gaming platforms.
With an estimated 2.4 billion online gamers worldwide, the opportunities for extremists to connect with vulnerable users are plentiful, instantaneous, and, unlike traditional social media platforms, anonymous. The authors point out the responsibility of the gaming industry to combat the many ways extremists exploit games and game-adjacent platforms to push their narratives—from modifying (“modding”) existing games to reflect extremist fantasies to using in-game chat functions to communicate with like-minded ideologues and potential recruits.
The authors acknowledge that, given the vast number of users, it would be impossible to eliminate all extremist content and behavior from online gaming; however, the time has come for the gaming and gaming-adjacent industries to reckon with how extremists are abusing their platforms in ways that result in real-world harm. The report offers five recommendations on how these industries can manage their products responsibly and better safeguard users.
For more information, check out HSDL’s resources on Online Gaming or the In Focus topic on Online Extremism.