Google caught hosting Hezbollah’s violent android games
Holy Defence looks like your typical shoot ’em up. The Android game sees the protagonist running around a carbon copy of the Sayyeda Zeinab mosque in Damascus, defending it from invaders with automatic weapons. More than 10,000 people have downloaded the game from the Google Play store, and it’s received plenty of praise from reviewers.
Little is disclosed about the game on Google’s site. But Forbes can reveal the developer behind Holy Defence and one other Google-hosted title, in which child characters deflect bombs onto Israeli soldiers, has a hidden motive: to disseminate Hezbollah propaganda.
Deemed by the U.S. government a terrorist organization, Hezbollah has, ironically, in recent years used American online platforms to spread its message. Holy Defence for Android represents its first foray into the mobile space and the first known case in which a game developed by any listed terror group has been spotted on Google’s marketplace for apps.
Not only do the smartphone games represent a new weapon in Hezbollah’s information wars against its myriad enemies, they also bring into focus a case where one of the world’s biggest private companies has to decide: Is Hezbollah a terror group or a political body as it claims?
“Just as they’ve become in business, in war, games are serious,” says Pete Singer, senior fellow at think tank New America and author of LikeWar: The Weaponization Of Social Media. And, he says, Google now finds itself as the arbiter of what is and what isn’t acceptable.
It appears Hezbollah-made games, at least, aren’t allowed. While Google didn’t provide comment for this article, it did remove both games within 48 hours of Forbes’ disclosure.