Terrorism is horrible because it is so unclear. The perpetrators can come from anywhere, from any background, and commit such a range of horrors that it’s no wonder that people are terrified and feeling unsafe. The recent Paris attacks reminded everyone yet again that any city, any person could be a victim at any time, and it’s a pretty vulnerable feeling to experience. As a result, many resort to violence and assigning blame. But in a rush to do that in the mainstream media, we saw some pretty poor media reporting lead to potentially unjustified accusations against gamers and the PlayStation Network.
In a contributor article on Forbes, it was written that that Paris attackers were linked to the possession of at least one PS4, and that it was known that ISIS could use the console for terrorist communication:
The hunt for those responsible (eight terrorists were killed Saturday night, but accomplices may still be at large) led to a number of raids in nearby Brussels. Evidence reportedly turned up included at least one PlayStation 4 console.
Belgian federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon said outright that the PS4 is used by ISIS agents to communicate, and was selected due to the fact that it’s notoriously hard to monitor. “PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp,” he said.
First of all, the statement that a PS4 was found in a raid was actually a complete fabrication and the original article amended. Second, while yes, Jambon did make those comments, he actually did so as part of a Politico debate wherein he was discussing Belgium’s security weaknesses three days before the Paris attacks.
The detection and prevention of the Verviers plot was proof that Belgian counterterrorism is improving. But it’s hard to counter the skilled online recruitment of ISIL, whom Jambon said sends 100,000 Twitter messages a day to potential recruits. Another avenue for recruitment is Playstation 4, whose users can connect in ways that are hard for authorities to detect. Jambon said Playstation 4 is even more difficult to monitor than WhatsApp and other applications.
So yes, PlayStation 4 consoles could be used as a means of communication between terrorists in much the same way that any other platform such as Twitter of WhatsApp could be used. That’s not how it was presented in the media, though, with a range of sensationalist articles going live over the weekend and early part of this week claiming that the PSN was used to coordinate the attacks. This prompted Sony to release a rather mundane but necessary statement:
PlayStation 4 allows for communication amongst friends and fellow gamers, in common with all modern connected devices. We take our responsibilities to protect our users extremely seriously, and we urge our users and partners to report activities that may be offensive, suspicious, or illegal. When we identify or are notified of such conduct, we are committed to taking appropriate actions in conjunction with the appropriate authorities.
I would have liked a more passionate response from Sony, but I suppose it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. This could have happened on any connected platform – there were even some truly bizarre articles published in the flurry of “gamers as terrorists” media that went live in the past few days that said terrorists could use mock levels in Mario Maker to plan potential attacks. Unfortunately, it’s a sign of a lack of understanding of communication technology, as well as a wave of fear and paranoia that spreads in the wake of such attacks. People are looking for answers, and the PSN was an easy target. But no, as far as the evidence shows thus far, the PSN was not used to coordinate the Paris attacks, so let’s stop pointing fingers there.
Last Updated: January 4, 2017