Europol Warns of Metaverse and AI Terror Threat

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New and emerging technologies like conversational AI, deepfakes and the metaverse could be utilized by terrorists and extremists to radicalize and recruit converts to their cause, Europol has warned.

The policing organization sounded the warning in its EU Terrorism Situation and Trend (TE-SAT) Report 2023 published today.

“Emerging online mediums, such as the metaverse, might be utilized for the dissemination of propaganda, recruitment and the coordination of terrorist and violent extremist activities,” it noted.

“A similar development might be observed with open source decentralized platforms, as these are becoming more popular among terrorists and violent extremists.”

Read more on tech-enabled terror threats: US Disrupts Three Cyber-Enabled Terror Campaigns.

While the metaverse threat is still on the horizon given its early stage of development, decentralized P2P apps used for propaganda are already causing law enforcers problems as they are harder to moderate and investigate, Europol argued.

The online environment lowers the bar for entering the world of terrorism and extremism, broadens the range of people that can become exposed to radicalization and increases the unpredictability of terrorism and extremism, the report added.

Europol also pointed to the potential use of deepfakes, augmented reality and conversational AI to enhance the efficiency of terrorist propaganda. Both these technologies and IoT tools can also be deployed in “more practical tasks such as the remote operation of vehicles and weapons used in attacks or setting up virtual training camps,” it said.

While these emerging technologies are very much on the radar, current tools already being exploited by terrorist and extremist groups are end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) messaging platforms and gaming-adjacent platforms for recruitment purposes and propaganda dissemination.

Both Islamic terror groups like IS and right-wing extremists exploit the latter – creating groups on gaming comms apps and “extremist utopias within popular video games” in order to appeal to younger recruits.

Digital currencies are also playing a role in helping to finance such groups while maintaining the anonymity of those contributing the funding, Europol said.

There were 28 completed, failed or foiled attacks recorded in the EU last year, during which four people lost their lives.

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