Well-educated, middle-class children lured into terrorism ‘through video games’

Terrorist propaganda is being targeted at middle-class children who play video games, Scotland Yard’s counter-terror chief has warned.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes said that teenagers who spent their days and nights in online worlds were being targeted by Right-wing extremists who made recruitment videos resembling “first-person shooter games”.

In 2021, more than 40 per cent of terror arrests were linked to Right-wing extremism and three of the four late-stage plots foiled by police involved neo-Nazi ideologies.

Asst Commissioner Jukes said that police were seeing an increasing number of teenagers being drawn into these activities, with the youngest terror arrest last year involving a child aged just 13.

Concerns over propaganda

He said well-educated, middle-class children were being drawn into the darkest and most sinister corners of the internet by extremists who lured them through online gaming platforms.

He said: “I think there are lots of factors that make young people vulnerable and many young people are gaming without heading down the path of violent extremism at all.”

But he went on: “What I am most concerned about is the cynical direct appeal of some of the propaganda that is presented in a way that chimes with gamers.

“You can see that they are presenting something that is very attractive potentially to a vulnerable young person, especially a young boy who spends a lot of time gaming.”

Children at risk of breaking the law

Asst Commissioner Jukes said that children who unwittingly researched and shared extremist material online risked being charged with terrorism offences, and he urged parents to talk to them and be active in their online worlds.

He said: “Many people imagine that the worst terrorist material exists in the darkest and most remote parts of the internet and that is largely true, often shared in closed groups.

“However, the signposts for that terrorist material often exists in open space and people’s first step towards it can often just be an internet search which takes them to open material.

“One thing we see is young people who do not understand that researching and then sharing the material that they encounter is a terrorist offence. I absolutely need to be clear to young people that some of the material they are encountering will lead them to serious consequences.”

Rise in Right-wing extremism

Counter-terror police have about 800 live investigations running at present and have interrupted 32 late-stage plots since 2017.

Asst Commissioner Jukes said that while the majority of threats still came from Islamist extremism, more than 40 per cent of terror arrests in 2021 involved suspects with an extreme Right-wing ideology.

He said: “One of the features of these young group of extreme Right-wing subjects of interest is actually they are in some cases relatively well-educated.

“If you were imagining this was all aligned to disenfranchised or disengaged white communities, the evidence is that it is a much more complex picture than that and that we see people whose backgrounds might be relatively middle class and relatively well-educated.”

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