How terrorist groups target youth online through games, chats, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

How terrorist groups target youth online through games, chats

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Terrorist and extremist groups target youth, including the two self-radicalised teenagers who were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), through online discussion groups and games.

The Internal Security Department (ISD) noted on Tuesday that extremist groups are known to use such means to radicalise and recruit young people online.

This is because the youngsters may be more impressionable in their search for a sense of identity, purpose and belonging, said the department.

The groups have also disseminated their ideological beliefs through video games, using in-game communication features to recruit vulnerable gamers and tapping gaming culture to increase their reach to younger people.

For example, ISIS has released propaganda videos which contain scenes that parallel those of popular online video games, while far-right extremists have also repurposed elements from video games to amplify their violence. This includes live-streaming their attacks in the style of first-person shooter video games, such as in the case of the Christchurch, New Zealand attack and the Halle, Germany attack, in 2019.

ISD said on Tuesday that a 15-year-old who desired to behead disbelievers and become a suicide bomber was detained under ISA in December 2022. In January, a 16-year-old, who created ISIS propaganda videos online through online gaming platform Roblox, was handed a restriction order.

They were both in contact with 18-year-old Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor through an extremist social media channel.

Irfan was detained in December 2022 after he planned to stab and kill non-believers, in dark alleys here.

He also planned to carry out a mass attack at Amoy Quee Camp by recruiting a suicide car bomber, and construct a C4 explosive device to bomb the Keramat Habib Noh grave site at Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque in Tanjong Pagar.

He intended to declare Coney Island an ISIS wilayat (province) in the hope that it would be recognised by ISIS as its official affiliate.

ISD said on Tuesday: “The cases involving Irfan and the two youths demonstrate yet again that extremist ideas continue to find resonance among Singaporeans.”

It added that since 2015, ISD has dealt with 11 self-radicalised Singaporean youth aged 20 or below under the ISA, all of whom were radicalised online.

The two teenagers are being rehabilitated.

The 15-year-old detainee will undergo intensive religious counselling with two religious counsellors from the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG). This aims to address the religious misconceptions that led to his support for armed violence and terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda.

The 16-year-old will likewise undergo religious counselling by an RRG volunteer. He will also participate in programmes conducted by the RRG’s Resource and Counselling Centre to make him aware of the threat of terrorism and extremism, and deepen his appreciation of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious context.

ISD officers will engage the youth regularly to guide them and assess their rehabilitation progress. ISD psychologists will address the non-ideological factors that made them vulnerable to radical influences. These include their lack of critical thinking in evaluating information that they consumed online, and their permissive attitudes towards violence.  

ISD said that both the teens’ families are closely involved in their rehabilitation.

For the 16-year-old, an aftercare officer works with his family to ensure he has the support needed to stay on track with his rehabilitation. He has also been assigned a mentor from the RRG, to serve as a role model and who can impart him pro-social and cyber-wellness skills.

The 15-year-old detainee is allowed regular family visits which provide him with social support and encourage him to focus on his rehabilitation.

ISD said that it has also worked closely with the teenagers’ schools. The 15-year-old has been given his school’s curriculum and study materials so he can continue with his studies while in detention. The department has also assigned him tutors to prepare him for his national examinations.

The 16-year-old will be supported by his school principal, school counsellor and form teacher, who will monitor his behaviour and progress in school.  

ISD said that all detainees attend religious counselling sessions at least once a month by a religious counsellor from the RRG.

A psychologist also addresses the non-ideological factors and the detainees get social support in their rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society.

This includes ISD case officers regularly engaging them to provide them with social interaction and support. 

The Inter-Agency Aftercare Group also helps the detainees through community welfare organisations.

The public can call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline on 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD) if they know or suspect that someone has been radicalised.