Police were reportedly sent to a family home in 2019 as part of the UK government's Prevent strategy, an anti-extremism scheme, after their four-year-old son was overheard talking about Fortnite in the playground after school.
The Guardian reports that the West-Midlands boy was referred to the scheme after talking about how his father had "guns and bombs in his shed." But according to transcripts of an interview with an after-school club worker, the kid had simply been watching his older cousin playing the game over at his father's house the night before—his excitable recollection taken out-of-context in reports.
Subsequently, the family received a late-night home visit from the police. In an anonymous interview, the mother told The Guardian that it was just one (rather "uneasy" looking) officer, but feared what could've happened if armed police showed up, or had social services become involved. While that one officer noted that he was simply following the Prevent playbook, the mother is confident that no referral would've been made at all had the boy been white.
"The office sent me all the information, including the transcript of that conversation," his mother explained, regarding a transcribed conversation between the boy and a care worker. "It’s quite clear he mentioned Fortnite."
"He’s just a little boy with an imagination. The teachers should know in this setting that [children] have imagination. They know exactly what kids are like, and what young boys are like. I do think that if it was a white boy, they wouldn’t have actually gone to that extreme of referring him to the Prevent scheme."
Working as a kind of crowdsourced snitching effort, Prevent demands public bodies like schools and clubs report any radicalisation concerns to authorities. It has been labelled a divisive, discriminatory, and ultimately ineffectual policy since its inception, with Rights Watch UK claiming it has a "massively disproportionate" focus on Muslim communities.
According to a freedom of information request by The Guardian, 624 children under six years old were referred to the scheme between 2016 and 2019, with a further 1,405 children aged between six and nine.
"It’s so worrying that hundreds of children barely old enough to tie their own shoelaces are being profiled as potential future criminals based on things like the video games they play or the perceived views of their families," Liberty policy and campaigns manager Rosalind Comyn told The Guardian.
In a statement, the Home Office simply wrote: "Where someone is concerned a child may have been deliberately exposed to harmful terrorist narratives, it is right that they refer them to the necessary authorities. Prevent is first and foremost about safeguarding, and through this referral, the child will be able to receive the vital support they need.”
I'm sure the kid will receive the "vital support" needed to, um, stop talking passionately about Fortnite.