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FBI anti-extremism site targets teens, but misses the mark

It’s hard to imagine why the Federal Buruea of Investigation (FBI) felt the need to include ’90s technology in its website aimed at helping contemporary teenagers spot and reject extremist views. But that’s exactly what it did. Built as part of the “Don’t be a Puppet” campaign, the site looks to educate teens on what extremism is, but it does so in a manner that would have been relevant two decades ago.

Visitors to the site are greeted by rambling introduction from FBI head James B. Comey, who gives a speech discussing the point of the website and what the FBI is trying to do. But at more than two and a half minutes, it’s hard to imagine any teens listening to his unenthusiastic delivery for even close to its entirety.

The site itself is a little bizarre in that it’s laid out like you’re looking through a pair of curtains, but it’s the strange, FMV game-like virtual room that houses all of the anti-extremism information that is the most striking. It features a beige computer with a CRT monitor. Another area has a first generation game boy with cartridges lying beside it.

This is the kind of technology that many of today’s teenagers, especially those at the lower end of the age range, have probably never even heard of. It looks more like the set up to a “teens react” video than one about an important anti-extremism message. The site itself is text heavy, with large, unattractive, framed buttons to click and drag around.

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To its credit, some of the information is genuinely informative, breaking down why certain people might feel a certain way, and how you can tell the difference between informed debate and hateful views. But it’s the execution and layout that feels so outdated, and will surely just turn off the attention of teens used to the aesthetic appeal and ease of use of contemporary applications.

As well as passively passing on information, the site also has some interactive elements. That will get the kids excited! Except they are for the most part drag and drop quizzes which often come across oddly ambiguous.

The big ‘game’ on the site is one called Slippery Slope, which has you sliding back and forth across a screen as a goat or a sheep of some sort, dodging blocks. Every time you finish a level, you’re ‘rewarded’ with a statement that could be interpreted as extremist.

The worst part of the site, is that this is what’s come from quite clearly a concerted effort to inform the youth of today about what extremism is. Never has it been more important to clarify the difference between someone who has a different point of view than you, and true hatred and extremism.

And this is what they came up with.