Avatar Mini-Documentary

From Normal Teenager to ISIS Fighter

Avatar is an outgrowth of the Clarion Project feature film KIDS: Chasing Paradise

which tells the stories of young people who are manipulated and radicalized to hate and kill.

In KIDS: Chasing Paradise we meet Christianne Boudreau, a mother in Canada who loses her son Damian when he becomes radicalized and joins ISIS in Syria. Damian grew up in a normal suburban middle-class Canadian home, playing hockey, fishing, and hunting. He tragically becomes one of the thousands of young men from North America and Europe who have been recruited to fight for ISIS in the Middle East.

In our world today, social media is the number one platform for radicalizing young people, and there are unfortunately many more paths of extremism than just radical Islam. As part of our mission of combatting extremism, Clarion Project assembled a team of open-source intelligence researchers who comb the internet to identify violent extremists in the U.S. and hand over evidence to law enforcement.

The necessity of our work is a testament to the power of social media and the internet to radicalize people, particularly youth.

So we decided to conduct an experiment.

We created a fake identity.

We created Alex, an avatar of a young man from California. The experiment was to see what would happen if Alex started posting on social media about his interest in learning more about Islam.

Who would he meet, and where would those interactions lead?

The result is:

Avatar, a 10-minute film that allows you to see the process of online radicalization unfold.

We set three ground rules that governed Alex’s online interactions:

Alex would not express any extremist views. He presented himself as a normal, curious and idealistic young person.

Alex followed the lead of the people who reached out to him.

Alex only used the popular social media platforms that a normal teenager would use.

It happened quickly.

It took a few weeks of looking for information about Islam for Alex to get connected to someone who guided him toward conversion to Islam and who then connected him to people who recruited him to fly to Turkey and join other ISIS fighters on their way to fight in Syria. The radicalization of young people is not a new phenomenon. What’s new is the power of social media to bring the danger of radicalization to every young person on the internet.

Watch and Share

Avatar and KIDS: Chasing Paradise

with everyone you know to help us stop online radicalization from happening to our youth.

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