Despite a number of hysterical media reports claiming that neo-Nazis regularly use popular video games like Fortnite and Minecraft to recruit children and young teenagers into their ranks, experts say letting your kids play massively-multiplayer online games probably won't turn your kid into a white supremacist.
The claims started on Reddit, after a "skinhead-turned-peace-activist" named Christian Picciolini suggested in a question and answer forum that white supremacists troll certain spaces on the Internet for "marginalized youth," and use "nefarious tactics like going to depression and mental health forums, and into multiplayer gaming, to recruit those same people."
"They drop benign hints and then ramp up when hooked," Piccolini claimed. He added that "recruiters" are mostly foreign-born individuals, often from Russia.
His claims were reported by the Sun, then by Fox News, which added that ISIS frequently uses online applications to spread their propaganda to children and to radicalize Muslims living in Europe, often targeting children as young as four years old with spelling and other educational programs.
But, says gaming journalist and expert on the subject, Tim Pool, the claim that Fortnite is rampant with Nazis is probably untrue — and they're even less likely to be out to get your kids.
Writing in Real Clear Politics, Pool suggests that the claims made in Piccolini's Reddit interview have been unnecessarily inflated.
"While it is interesting that someone who claims to be a former white supremacist made this claim, that does not mean it is true," Pool explained. "It certainly does not imply a widespread epidemic of this happening. Just because he might know some people who did this does not mean it was common or effective."
For most players, Fortnite is a battle royale game and nothing more: they fly into an island, compete to be the last fictional character standing and fly out. But there is a chat function, and like many video game chat functions, Fortnite's is irreparably gross and feature discussions that would be more at home in elementary school classrooms than in forums populated by grown adults.
The real problem is that there's little to do to police this activity — if it exists — other than to regulate speech, and video game companies are finding out the hard way that that's not a popular solution.