Leroy Akbar: U.S. looking for terrorists in MMOs

Not satisfied with having completely eradicated the global threat of terrorism, the U.S. Department of Intelligence, in their infinite wisdom and spendthrift, have turned their attentions to the final asylum of those that hope to violently wrest our freedom from us: MMOs.

Dubbed “The Reynard Project” (What happened to cool names like Enduring Freedom?), the Department of National Intelligence has broken the initiative into two stages. First, to analyze “the emerging social, behavioral and cultural norms in virtual worlds and gaming environments” claiming that “the cultural and behavioral norms of virtual worlds and gaming are generally unstudied”, and second, should the collected data justify further action, to institute an automated system to track the actions of those playing games like World of Warcraft and report behavior they consider indicative of terroristic intent.

Yes yes, the U.S. is once again ham-handedly encroaching on the freedoms of its citizens, but if you’re not used to it by now you really haven’t been paying attention.  Further, this kind of action was all but inevitable considering the frequency with which the words “terrorism” and “Second Life” are bandied about in concert.  

What’s more concerning than the actual intent to monitor the actions of a group of people who’ve shown no more realistic intent to violently subvert the dominant paradigm than a group of cafe-bound freshman poli-sci students is the fact that, to the U.S. Department of Intelligence, the world of MMOs is “generally unstudied”.  Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that aside from the seemingly constant studies into the psychological and behavorial effects of MMOs and MMOs as a social phenomena, there was an entire industry dedicated (in part at least) to studying and speculating on the social, behavorial, and cultural effects of not only MMOs, but video games in general.  I’ve heard that sometimes these people even write about their ideas in a completely public forum.

So which is the more distressing issue?  The fact that anyone playing an MMO in the states is likely to have their actions monitored in an attempt to create a baseline from which an automated system can be launched to monitor for and report non-normative behavior.  Or is it more horrifying to realize that the U.S. Department of National Intelligence (and I really want to stress that title here) is so completely ignorant of the public debate and analysis (and the resultant data) surrounding the past time of a large number of its citizens that they feel they have to collect this data at all?

The odds that terrorists are using MMOs as training grounds, recruitment centers, or meeting areas are incredibly slim, but however remote the possibility still exists. That being said, while as a U.S. citizen I have a burning desire to be protected from random violence at the hands of zealots, I don’t want to be protected at the cost of my freedoms, especially by a governing body as seemingly bumbling and surveillance-happy as this one.

[Via ThreatLevel]

Qais Fulton