After a 13-year-old was sentenced last week, a young victim of radicalisation talks about how white supremacists target children. John was 15 when a member of his Facebook group volunteered to become Britain’s “first white suicide bomber”. Another advocated attending Friday prayers at the local mosque and “slaying people where they stood”. Another wanted to firebomb the place of worship. Ultimately, no blood was spilt. Police soon raided several homes linked to the group. John and a friend – also 15 and an adherent of far-right ideology – buried an arsenal of knives and machetes to ensure officers never found them. John became increasingly radicalised by an online barrage of far-right disinformation. “Posts of homeless British soldiers were set against Muslim families being given free homes. Now I know the posts were all fake, but the 15-year-old me didn’t bother to fact-check.” The worry is that John’s contemporaries won’t either. A surge of online extremism and disinformation has arrived at a time of lockdown-induced isolation, loneliness and home-schooling, creating what police call a “perfect storm”. One British far-right group has even started pushing an alternative white-supremacist school curriculum for lockdown learning. Last week, the youngest person in the UK to commit a terrorism offence was sentenced. Only 13 when he downloaded a bomb-making manual, the teenager subsequently became the leader of the UK arm of a banned neo-Nazi terrorist group that glorified individuals responsible for racist mass murder. His swift journey from lonely adolescent to UK leader of the Feuerkrieg Division is disquieting not for its uniqueness but for its part in a growing pattern. At least 17 children, some as young as 14, have been arrested on terrorism charges over the past 18 months. A new neo-Nazi group led by a 15-year-old from Derby emerged last year. Its entire membership consisted of children. The group discussed attacking migrants in Dover and how to acquire and modify weapons. (…) Khan, who will publish a report this month chronicling myriad failures in the government’s counter-extremism strategy, said they had identified considerable extremist content, much on unregulated platforms and propelled by algorithms that could quickly draw young minds like John’s deeper into violent extremism. “Thousands of videos, memes, GIFs and other content promote Islamist beheading videos, neo-Nazi material advocating for ‘Jews to be gassed’, to videos celebrating the actions of terrorists such as Thomas Mair [the far-right supporter who murdered MP Jo Cox],” said Khan. Meanwhile, new research reveals how rightwing extremists are using fresh methods to lure young recruits. Researchers for an initiative supported by the UN counter-terrorism executive directorate identified the online game creation-system Roblox as having been used by rightwing extremists to recreate playable versions of infamous far-right atrocities. Tech Against Terrorism researchers found users being invited to roleplay Anders Breivik’s 2011 attack on the Norwegian island of Utoya, the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the 2019 terrorist attack in El Paso, Texas. Significantly, the rapidly growing UK white-nationalist group Patriotic Alternative is actively targeting younger recruits and recently started Call of Duty Warcraft gaming tournaments for its supporters. (…) The research by Tech Against Terrorism also found that extremists used language on gaming platforms such as Roblox – which says it swiftly acts on any inappropriate content – to recruit new youngsters online. They found that extremists used references to the computer game Minecraft or Roblox in their posts in order to hide their messages as online gaming chat. One example, found on the social messaging app Telegram, involves a user posting comprehensive bomb-making instructions to a youngster with the message: “Hey kid, want to make a mailbox bomb for Roblox?” Also on Telegram was a Roblox simulation of a vehicle attack against protesters, a recurrent theme of far-right memes, and a real life feature of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests in the US.

via guardian: How far right uses video games and tech to lure and radicalise teenage recruits