A four-year-old boy was referred to Prevent, the UK government’s counter extremism task force, over comments he made at school about playing Fortnite.
The boy was allegedly overheard during an after-school club session talking about “guns and bombs” that were apparently in his father’s shed, and was referred to the Prevent scheme, which is the UK government’s counter-extremism strategy, designed to tackle prospective terrorists, and de-radicalize them before anything happens.
However, according to The Guardian, transcripts of a conversation with the worker at the club in September 2019 clearly highlighted that the reference to weapons was to do with Fortnite. The boy had been to his father’s house the previous night, and had been enthusiastically recounting watching his cousin playing the game to his friends.
“The office sent me all the information, including the transcript of that conversation. It’s quite clear he mentioned Fortnite,” his mother said. “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.”
Despite the boy clearly talking about Fortnite, police turned up to the family house at 10:30 p.m. to question them under the Prevent scheme.
“It could have gone really wrong. I worry armed police could have come to my house and, you know, arrested the parents, with social services getting involved,” the mother said. She added that the officer was also uneasy about taking the case, but had to “follow the Prevent flowchart.”
“He was in the same place as me really. You know: ‘Why have they done this?’ He said if they had any major concerns, they wouldn’t have sent him by himself,” the mother continued.
“We should all be free to express ourselves and go about our daily lives without being monitored for what we think or believe – and to grow up in a society where we feel safe to express our thoughts and opinions,” said Rosalind Comyn, the policy and campaigns manager for the pressure group Liberty.
“That’s why 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,” Comyn added.
According to a freedom of information request by The Observer, the boy in question was one of 624 under-six-year-olds referred to the Prevent scheme between 2016 and 2019.