Singapore detains teens under controversial act after they played on ISIS-themed Roblox servers

(Image credit: Roblox)

Singapore has detained teenagers in two separate cases under the country's Internal Security Act (ISA), a controversial law that allows the country's home affairs minister to have people detained without trial for up to two years. The ISA has in recent years been used to target militants of various stripes and now authorities allege these two boys, one 15 and one 16 years old, had become radicalised after playing on ISIS-themed servers in the popular game Roblox. 

The authorities claim that, among other things, the 15 year-old had considered carrying out knife attacks in Singapore, beheading non-Muslims in tourist hotspots, and even becoming a suicide bomber. The boy was also active on other social media platforms, where he shared pro-Isis content and, most recently, attempted to order an ISIS flag online.

The 15 year-old is the youngest person to be detained under this law and has been held since November. "At the point of his arrest, the youth was deeply entrenched in his radical views, but had yet to undertake any steps towards actualising his attack ideations,” said the Singapore Internal Security Department (ISD) in a statement (thanks, SCMP).

The teens have not been named due to their age, but the terms of the ISA can be renewed at the minister's discretion. The ISD said the 16 year-old had been tracked by authorities since he was 14, when he began joining multiple Islamic State-themed servers on Roblox and designing his own. The boy replicated regions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, considered himself an Isis member and propagandist and, in perhaps the most bizarre element of this tale, allegedly took the baiah (a vow of allegiance to the group also known as the "pledge of death") with an in-game Isis leader.

This story is linked to news from December 2022 that another teen, the 18-year-old Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor, was detained under the ISA after planning to set up an Islamic caliphate on Singapore’s Coney Island. Both of the younger teenage boys were in touch with this individual and shared certain social media channels. The ISD say a total of 11 people under 21 have been issued with orders under the ISA since 2015, with seven detained and four given restriction orders. 

The ISD say these cases show how “extremist ideas continue to find resonance among Singaporeans” through online gaming platforms and social media, which it says ISIS uses to target vulnerable and younger people.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."