Circulating message warns parents that games such as Minecraft have a doorway to the “black web”. The message claims that, if players move their game character through this doorway, they can then become the target for groomers.
To be clear, if younger children are playing games in which they can interact with other players online, then parents and guardians certainly need to remain vigilant. Predators have indeed contacted and groomed children via such platforms.
However, the claim that Minecraft or other such games have some sort of magical doorway to a sinister “black web” inhabited by sexual predators is simply nonsense. There is no such doorway.
The person who wrote and first distributed this would-be warning may have meant well, but he or she apparently has very little understanding of how the Internet actually works. Presumably, the author of the warning is referring to the so-called dark web when he or she references the “black web”. In fact, the dark web can be defined as a “collection of websites that exist on an encrypted network and cannot be found by using traditional search engines or visited by using traditional browsers”. Thus, to access the dark web, you need to use specific methods, configurations, and software and the procedure is not straightforward. Accessing the dark web is certainly not as easy and simple as having a game character enter a hidden doorway.
Moreover, why would high profile companies such as Microsoft, which now owns Minecraft, allow their games to include a doorway that could put young players at risk? The warning makes no sense.
The message may have been derived from a recent case in which a Welsh gamer was jailed after grooming two boys he met via Minecraft. However, the man did not gain access to his young victims because they went through some sinister black web doorway in the game. Instead, he first contacted the boys via normal Minecraft gameplay and then switched to Skype, SMS, and Snapchat to continue his grooming.
Or, perhaps, the message comes out of some fundamental misunderstanding of what is referred to as the “Nether” in Minecraft. The Nether equates to a Minecraft underworld that may have more “dangerous” in-game elements such as sudden cliffs and lava lakes that players need to negotiate. Players access the Nether by creating and entering a portal. The Nether may be a somewhat darker part of the Minecraft world and is perhaps best avoided by more impressionable younger players. Nevertheless, children who do venture into the Nether are no more likely to be groomed by online predators than those who remain in the Minecraft overworld.
These misleading and inaccurate warnings can actually do more harm than good. For example, parents who believe this nonsensical warning may well ban their children from using Minecraft and thus think that they have effectively locked the door to the “black web” and are thereby keeping their children safe. Meanwhile, the children may still be using social media websites such as Facebook and Snapchat, text messaging, and Skype to communicate with others. Predators certainly use these platforms to groom and victimise children.
In short, stopping children from using one particular game in response to spurious claims that it contains a magic door to the “black web” is utterly pointless.
Keeping young children safe from online predators requires continued monitoring of ALL of their Internet activities, not just one particular gaming platform.
We would like to warn all parents about an issue which has come to our knowledge regarding online gaming in particular Minecraft. Sometimes there is a door which appears in the game, once the player has moved their character through the doorway they have entered the Black Web and can become the target for groomers. Please pass this information on to anyone you know whose child plays on this game.
Last updated: February 10, 2017
First published: February 10, 2017
By Brett M. Christensen