January 14, 2012 2:22 PM Subscribe
posted by vidur (22 comments total)
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"The online world of Islamic extremists, like all the other worlds of the Internet, operates on a subtly psychological level that does a brilliant job at keeping people like Abumubarak clicking and posting away -- and amassing all the rankings, scores, badges, and levels to prove it. Like virtually every other popular online social space, the social space of online jihadists has become "gamified," a term used to describe game-like attributes applied to non-game activities. It turns out that what drives online jihadists is pretty much exactly what drives Internet trolls, airline ticket consumers, and World of Warcraft players: competition
"One man in particular has been able to take advantage of the incentives of online gamification to pursue real-life terrorist recruits: Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born al Qaeda cleric hiding in Yemen, famous for having helped encourage a number of Western-based would-be jihadists into action. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter, for example, massacred a dozen soldiers after exchanging a number of emails with Awlaki. Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, admitted Awlaki influenced him, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was one of Awlaki's students prior to attempting to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day 2009. Part of Awlaki's success is due to his creative use of the principles of gaming both online and off, by using himself -- or his personal affirmation -- as a prize. His supporters vie for the right to connect with Awlaki, whether virtually or actually -- a powerful incentive that, from our observation, drives many of them into, at the very least, more active language about jihad.