Deep Thoughts, Serious games

A Pretext for Chatroom subpoenas? War in Warcraft

It’s no surprise that the US government, especially in a post-9/11 communication environment, is concerned about being aware of threats, from whatever corner they might come. And fear appears to be the great motivator for its latest, well, fear: terrorists in World of Warcraft.

It seems someone from the scarily-titled National Defense University gave a presentation to some think-tank and government types outlining what a terrorist scenario in World of Warcraft would look like inside its highly uncontrollable (at least to the government, and at least right now) in-game chatter, according to Wired’s Danger Room blog.

Using such frightening terms as “White Keep” (for White House) and “Dragon Fire” (for unconventional weapon), the user, “war-monger” (I mean, Come on! That’s the best you could come up with?) the professor, Dr. Dwight Toavs, created a scenario where an attack is launched on the White House through these various coded references:

Only thing is, the likelihood of an attack emanating from a chatroom in a game like WoW, just because it’s a game about… wars… is incredibly unlikely.

The always-reliable Steven Aftergood, who writes the terrific newsletter/blog Secrecy News with the Federation of American Scientists, offered this very level-headed analysis in an interview with Wired, saying:

This concern is out there. But it has to be viewed in context. It’s the job of intelligence agencies to anticipate threats and counter them. With that orientation, they’re always going to give more weight to a particular scenario than an objective analysis would allow. Could terrorists use Second Life? Sure, they can use anything. But is it a significant augmentation? That’s not obvious. It’s a scenario that an intelligence officer is duty-bound to consider. That’s all.

The reaction to this post, to put it mildly, has been stimulating. Those who commented on the post range from the incredulous to the brazenly sarcastic, but one point really hits home: that the fear emanating from the feds could possible lead to some kind of restrictions and monitoring of chat rooms and in-game chatter.

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