Perils of e-radicalisation

Handlers could use games like Blue Whale to perpetrate terror

Perils of e-radicalisation
The act of radicalization is based on convincing the human mind and impacting its thinking process in a way that a self belief is incrementally stimulated to achieve a certain goal. The ultimate objective is to slowly transfer the control of the decision-making process to an external source so that the person gives up their mental suzerainty and accepts the lordship of another’s authority. The latter gives different directions to a person and his or her mental process is controlled through a mechanism of constant guidance.

The smaller the goal, the easier it is for a person to progress gradually on the path of radicalization. Once he or she conquers a certain level of challenge and becomes accustomed to it, the bar is raised slowly and steadily in order to maintain a self-ingrained radicalization level. As the human mind is convinced that it can achieve the target easily, the psychological impact provides a positive impression on cerebral activity, thus triggering an enhanced neuron signal for physical action.

With an increase in the level of difficulty, a more forceful signal generation is actuated from the brain to overcome the hurdle. Once the human brain is completely under control through the incremental challenge process, a stage is reached when it starts obeying the orders of the external command automatically. The latter gains total control of the human mind and becomes the final decision-maker of that person. At this stage, the human brain is in a position to follow each and every instruction given by the external authority. In the acute form of this phenomenon, a person can commit suicide or take his or her life in a manner desired by the authority. This process is akin to religious radicalization in which a person is brainwashed through incorrect religious texts or wrong interpretations of the holy verses by constant preaching and guidance.

Take the example of online interventions such as the Blue Whale game, which is believed to be designed for a single administrator or a group of administrators who instruct(s) a player and give(s) different tasks to be completed within a limited time-frame otherwise the player loses his or her admittance to the group. The players are forced to follow the guidelines and complete all challenges within the given time-frame. These challenges vary in level and include waking up at odd hours at night, cutting or carving certain letters or figures on different parts of the body, alighting a machine or bridge or crane or any other instrument of appreciable height, watching a horror movie or a program while maintaining psychological stability.
E-games like Blue Whale open a number of options and possibilities for terror operators as well. For example, the game consists of fifty stages and the participants are guided consistently to follow certain rules and regulations to accomplish daily tasks. The ultimate target is to take your own life

The player is thus coached into transferring his or her decision-making mental process to the administrator and blindly follows their orders. The game-administrators target young boys and girls due to their mental immaturity and inability to read into the underlying meaning and objective of the instructions. Moreover, the curators of such games manipulate the adventurous streak in young people by hurling exciting challenges at them. The young spirits, blinded by the eventualities of outcomes of these mini missions, put all their strength into achieving them and sense exuberance and elated satisfaction when they do.

Online radicalization takes young minds into the wilderness of a sadistic environment where they reside in isolation and ex-communication. Once a person is completely cut off from his or her environs, the mind starts accepting the direction of the online instructor. Since the complexity of the human mind is such that it behaves in a relatively unpredictable manner and the e-medium has the capacity to address millions of minds in a few seconds, the probability of partial or full control of a few minds increases automatically. For example, the people who use the internet and other web-based services have different social backgrounds, thinking processes, likes and dislikes, tastes and aptitudes. They have divergent levels of anxieties, fears, social pressures, ambitions and personal complexes. As the online recruiter makes an e-statement, it produces a varying level of impression on different minds. Those who associate it with their inner social feelings, attitudes and reasoning readily accept its authority over their thinking process and look towards it as a viable option to their inner sufferings. A simple, comprehensive and direct e-statement has a higher probability of influencing human minds than that of a complex, incomplete and indirect e-message.

This also points toward the hazards of the e-socialization mechanism prevailing globally. The introduction of new gadgets and high technological up-gradation of information-based instruments has increased social isolation especially among young people in our social set-up. The e-medium provides an attractive way of engagement with young boys and girls where they get solace and give vent to their frustration and hopelessness. Human contact is losing its significance and importance in the wake of rising e-socialization trends. Children are usually neglected by their parents who hardly give them time for personal acquaintance and intimacy. The mechanization and electronic socialization have eroded the basic concept of the importance of human interaction and people-to-people contact. If this continues, the next generation shall be isolated, lonely and solitary and can be easily controlled through the e-medium. In fact, the concept of artificial intelligence may be altered. The human mind will be controlled to perform different tasks instructed to it through electronic instrumentation.

E-games like Blue Whale open a number of options and possibilities for terror operators as well. For example, the game consists of fifty stages and the participants are guided consistently to follow certain rules and regulations to accomplish daily tasks. The ultimate target is to take your own life. What if a curator introduces a stage in which young brains are instructed to take lives of others through different means? It is also a possibility that different terror groups use it as a potential source of radicalization. Participants can be goaded into carrying out certain terror acts as a part of the game and complete it successfully according to the instructions of the administrator.

Rapid digitization needs to be dovetailed with local social norms so that young people maintain family affinity while using the internet. Each family should have an intranet so that the phenomenon of e-isolation can be minimized. It is also important that the agencies monitoring cyber space should take cognizance of such interventions which are a potential threat to human independence of mind and body. Any suspicious activity from any individual should not only be limited to personal surveillance but it should also be shared with his or her family members to exercise complete watch over such activities.

The writer is a senior police manager, PSP officer and has an MPA from  Columbia University.