Becoming a terrorist is virtually simple: The Virtualization of Terrorism
August 2nd, 2007

Even with their senses shocked by the violent glare of the explosions in Second Life during the last months, I find it hard to believe that people would be truly shocked by the possibility of some terrorist activity in a virtual world. Since SL is modeled upon reality and in real life terrorism delves sometimes into the core stability of a society, the virtual reality should be expected to follow the same patterns.

So, let’s say you’re a devout jihadist in search for new recruits to serve the cause, but the scrutiny of law enforcements and intelligence agencies in real life has tighten. There are too few moves you can do, without being monitored and possibly caught. You need a “safer” place. If you are tech savvy or know tech savvy people, you’ve surely heard of the globalization’s virtues and of the tremendous communication leverages of the online environment. If you combine this with the impressive simulative power of the games, you realize that cyberspace is one place in which you can thrive. Besides that, the line between gaming, simulating and doing a virtual crime is not very distinguishable. The doors are open and possibilities are endless because you cannot be punished for only thinking of a crime or causing it into a game-like virtual reality. Also, the lack of thorough surveillance makes it free land for crimes like credit card fraud, identity theft, money laundering and tax evasion. Now you’re convinced to act ahead.

Since you can buy and sell virtual dollars by help of real ones, you know you can launder money. Since you have access to guns similar to the real ones, like AK47s, you know you can learn to yield them or teach others to do it. Since you can leverage the online global communication means to say whatever you want under freedom of speech and granted anonymity, you know you can do propaganda, organize groups, elite troops, liberation armies, pick your choice. You can put fresh recruits eager to get some action into fighting simulated environments for rehearsals, so they can learn the basic or finer skills of a warrior and get the virtual taste of victory. You can compute and deploy virtual nukes. Since real buildings and people are not involved, you can virtually shoot, bomb, hurt, destroy, erase and smile at the legal difficulty of being detected and punished. There you have schools of terrorism where people can come to take a curious peek or sit in and get involved. There you have terrorism labs where you can study mobs behavior and homeland security reactions under crisis situations. You can test your terror techniques, observe, study, meticulously revise your strategies depending your enemy’s moves.

So much for the jihadi’s perspective. While on the hurt corpus of SL the blood is coagulating and wounds are closed by community efforts, while some stay and rebuild and other leave for lighter and safer places, law enforcement and intelligence agencies realize that now they have two interconnected realms to defend from their nemesis. The democratic openness of both worlds carries within the risk of malevolent perpetrators. It’s where the classic evil hacker meets the cyberterrorist with the online jihadist as subspecies. Will society find its organic equilibrium in face of terrorist agents? Will that imply a radical purge by a strict monitoring Panopticon or a rather soft adaptive defense process done by more flexible strategies, that avoid anarchy at one end, and censorship and limited possibilities at the other end?

This was a personal opinion, a rather philosophical insight. Concrete and detailed informations are to be found in the Australian’s article on SL terrorism.


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